How to Protect Your Android Phone Before You Lend It Out

By David Nield on at

Your nephew wants to play Boom Beach, or your best friend needs to use Facebook, or a stranger in the street needs to make a phone call. How do you make sure your Android handset is going to come back in one piece?

Android Lollipop includes a couple of useful features to keep your device protected, and here’s how to use them.

Guest Mode

How to Protect Your Android Phone Before You Lend It Out

First up is guest mode, which works exactly as you might expect if you’ve ever used a similar feature on your desktop software of choice. It essentially creates a new user account for your friend or relative, kept separate from the apps you’ve installed and the settings you’ve customised on your own account.

Drag down from the top of the screen with two fingers, tap your avatar (top right), then choose Guest (or Add guest if you haven’t yet set it up). Guest mode shows Lollipop in its factory fresh state, from apps to keyboard tones, and internet access is available if required. Apps like Gmail and the Play Store can be used, if your guest enters his or her Google credentials.

The SMS app is blocked and you can block calls too (via Settings, Users in your own account). What’s more, there’s no access to the Backup & reset menu. Guest mode is great for people you largely trust who want to browse the web, play games, check social media and so on, without interfering with any of the accounts or preferences you’ve set up on your phone.

Screen Pinning

How to Protect Your Android Phone Before You Lend It Out

Screen pinning keeps your friend, relative or random stranger stuck inside one app—there’s no way to escape it without the PIN code. So if your niece wants to play a game or your pal wants to check something on the web it’s the perfect solution, and quicker to set up than guest mode.

First, make sure you do have a PIN or pattern protecting your device on the Security page of Settings (screen pinning isn’t much use without it). From the same menu tap Screen pinning, then toggle the switch to on and enable Ask for PIN before unpinning is enabled.

Launch the app to pin, then head to the overview screen (via the square soft key). Drag the front app up to the middle of the screen, tap the pin icon in the lower right corner, and that’s it—your app is pinned. To quit it, press the Back and Overview keys together, then enter your PIN. The person with your phone can turn it off, but again they’ll be met with the PIN prompt.

It means some extra inconvenience before you pass your device over, but it’s worth it for the extra peace of mind you get as a result.

Top image: Chutima Chaochaiya/Shutterstock