A Complete Guide to Locking Apps for Better Security on Your Android Device

Have you ever lent your phone to someone, only to cringe as they start poking around your apps? What if they accessed private messages, financial information, or deleted an important app by accident?

My friend Ellie had this happen when showing her phone to a date. He started swiping through personal photos and conversations with her sister seeking therapy. Understandably upset at the breach of trust and privacy, it made her realize the need to lock sensitive apps.

I‘ve been an Android user for 5+ years across various devices. Once my unlocked social media app was hacked, I learned quickly that locking down apps can prevent major security threats.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore four methods to lock apps on your Android phone or tablet:

  1. Using the built-in app locking feature
  2. Screen pinning apps
  3. Installing third-party app lockers
  4. Launchers with app locking capabilities

I will compare the pros and cons of each method and walk through step-by-step instructions on setup. You‘ll also learn best practices based on Android version and device type.

Let‘s get started securing your apps!

An Overview of App Locking Benefits

Here are some key reasons why you should lock apps on your Android device:

Enhanced Personal Security

Locking sensitive apps protects private messages, financial information, personal photos/videos from unauthorized access. This reduces risks of serious data breaches via unlocked apps containing your credentials.

Prevent App Tampering or Deletion

Guest users may accidentally alter app settings or remove valuable apps off your home screen. Locking down options prevents this.

Curb Device Addiction

Do you constantly check social media or messaging apps? App locks can reduce usage time wasted on distracting apps when you need to focus.

Remote Usage Allowances

App locks enable safely sharing your device with kids to access only permitted apps for entertainment. Also useful for work phones to constrain app access for employees.

The Threats Are Real

  • 63% of smartphone users do not use screen lock or app locking capabilities according to a Kaspersky study.

  • Reports show compromised or stolen devices resulted in a 44% increase in device vulnerability exploitations in 2022 (Tenable Research).

Now that you know the risks, let‘s explore your options to lock down Android apps!

Method 1: Using The Built-In App Lock Feature

Many Android devices come equipped with native app locking capabilities through your security settings. Let‘s go through how to set this up:

Compatible Devices

The built in app lock option is fully supported on Android 5.0+ versions. Available on popular models like:

  • Google Pixel 7 Series
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 Series
  • OnePlus 10 Pro 5G
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 Series

And more. Check your Android version (Settings > About Device > Android Version) to verify.


  • Simple setup through existing settings menu
  • No battery drainage since integrated natively
  • Allows using fingerprint or face unlock


  • Limited customization options
  • Does not work on all models, Android versions

Step 1: Access App Lock Settings

Navigate to Settings > Apps > App Lock

You‘ll then be prompted to enter your current screen lock method (PIN, password, pattern etc).

Step 2: Select Apps to Lock

Toggle the switch next to apps you want to lock. These apps will now have an extra lock on opening.

Step 3: Set Up Password/Fingerprint

Create a password or enable fingerprint identification specific to unlocking the locked apps.

And you‘re all set! To unlock the locked app, you‘ll need to enter this special authentication.

Bypassing Forgotten Passwords

If you forget the app lock password, go back to the App Lock settings. Here are your options for bypassing it:

  • Enter your device screen lock PIN/password
  • Answer the security question if set up
  • Use your email recovery option

Using the built-in app lock takes just minutes without any apps to download. However, the capabilities may be limited compared to third party options we will discuss next.

Method 2: Screen Pinning Apps

Screen pinning allows securing individual apps while they‘re open on your device. It freezes the app in use until you unpin it. Useful when handing your device temporarily to others.

Let‘s examine the steps to pin apps:

Compatible Devices

Screen pinning works reliably on Android 5.1 and above. Available even on older models like:

  • Samsung Galaxy J3
  • LG K4
  • Motorola Moto G4 Play


  • Prevents app tampering/closing while pinned
  • Easy to toggle on/off anytime
  • No battery drain or storage usage


  • Only secures currently open app
  • Enabling takes more steps each time
  • Extra gestures to enter/exit pinned mode

Step 1: Enable Screen Pinning

Go to Settings > Security > Advanced > Screen Pinning

Toggle on "Ask for unlock pattern before unpinning" for added security.

Step 2: Open App and Enable Pin

Swipe up to access recent apps. Long press the app icon you want pinned until a lock icon appears. Select this lock icon or "Pin".

The app is now pinned open on the screen until you choose to unpin it!

Exiting Pinned Mode

To unpin the screen:

  1. Long press the Back and Recents buttons together
  2. When prompted enter your unlock pattern/password
  3. Select Unpin when the option appears

While not full proof, screen pinning offers a quick way to secure apps in use if you‘ll regain your device shortly after.

Up next we‘ll compare some of the best third party apps for locking down your apps.

Method 3: Third Party App Lockers

For maximum flexibility in locking apps, dedicated app locker apps are worth considering. Let‘s compare some top options:

App LockerPrice# Apps to LockCustomizable LockOther Key Features
Norton App LockFreeUnlimitedPIN, pattern, fingerprintReal-time scanning for malware
CM App LockFreeUnlimitedPassword, pattern, fingerprintIntruder selfie capture, app hiding
AppLock$0.99UnlimitedFingerprint, face unlock, PINCloud sync across devices
KeepSafe App LockFree10 apps maxPasswordPrivate photo and video storage

I recommend Norton App Lock or CM App Lock as the strongest choices based on security, customization, with budget friendly pricing. But feel free to experiment with any offering aids your needs.

Now let‘s walk through getting started with a third party app locker using CM App Lock as an example.

Step 1: Download and Install

Download CM App Lock from Google Play Store onto your Android device. Tap install and accept requested permissions.

Step 2: Set Up Lock Method

On opening the app, you‘ll configure your preferred lock method. Options include:

  • Password
  • Fingerprint/Face Recognition
  • Pattern

Simply follow on-screen instructions for setting this up.

Step 3: Select Apps to Lock

Tap the ‘+‘ icon at the bottom and tick the list of apps to secure with the app lock. Hit OK to confirm selections.

Step 4: Lock App Access Attempts

To fully protect an app using CM App Lock:

  1. Tap the app icon
  2. Select Advanced Protection
  3. Enable "Lock app when accessing"

Now the locked app requires fingerprint/passcode authentication every time before opening!

Method 4: Using a Launcher with App Locking

Your Android‘s launcher controls the home screen, app drawer and various user interface functions. Replacing the stock launcher offers all kinds of customizations – including locking down your apps!

Let‘s look at launchers providing lockdown capabilities:

LauncherPriceKey App Lock FeaturesOther Perks
Apex LauncherFreePassword/PIN lockCustom gestures, icon packs
Niagara LauncherFree/$4.99 ProFingerprint unlock selected appsMinimalist interface, quick actions
Evie LauncherFreeHide apps from drawerClean, feed-like homepages

As you can see, launchers offer app locking while also customizing and streamlining how you interact with apps. Beyond productivity benefits, it‘s a creative way to integrate security.

I suggest Apex Launcher for its balance of free robust features coupled with strong app locking and encryption capabilities. But check the options to match your priorities.

Let‘s quickly walk through configuring Apex Launcher app locking:

Step 1: Download Apex Launcher

Install Apex Launcher from the Google Play Store. Complete the setup wizard for basic configurations.

Step 2: Initiate App Lock Settings

Long press on an app icon and select "Edit/Delete". Toggle "Password/ Fingerprint protected" on.

Step 3: Set Encryption Password

Choose between a password, PIN, pattern or fingerprint to enable. This becomes the method for unlocking the secured app.

Step 4: Lock Additional Apps

Rinse and repeat step 2 and 3 for other apps you wish to lock down!

With these simple adjustments to the launcher, accessing the locked apps will prompt fingerprint authentication or password entry.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Congratulations, you now have multiple methods to lock apps and improve security on your Android!

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Use screen pinning for quick app access control
  • Built-in locking gives basic protections
  • Third party app lockers offer strongest customizations
  • Specialized launchers can also lock apps while enhancing UI

Don‘t stop here – with app locking set up explore other ways to hide apps from prying eyes. Stay vigilant friends! Let me know if you have any other questions.

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