How to Customize Your Android Lock Screen

Shake things up with new wallpaper or try out an app

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Your smartphone's lock screen is something you use countless times each day, and if set up correctly, it's a way to keep nosy friends, family, and colleagues—not to mention would-be hackers—from snooping into your private information. With most Android smartphones, you can choose to unlock by swiping, tracing a pattern over dots, or by inputting a PIN code or password. You can also opt not to have a screen lock at all, though that puts you at risk.

Note: The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Choosing an unlock method

To set or change your lock screen, go into settings, security, and tap on Screen lock. You'll have to confirm your current PIN, password, or pattern to proceed. Then, you can select swipe, pattern, PIN, or password. On the main security screen, if you've chosen a pattern, you can decide whether to show the pattern or not when you unlock; hiding it adds an extra layer of security when you unlock your phone in public. If you have Android LollipopMarshmallow, or Nougat, you also need to decide how you want your notifications to appear on the lock screen: show all, hide sensitive content, or don't show at all. Hiding sensitive content means that you'll see that you have a new message, for example, but not who it's from or any of the text, until you unlock. For all methods, you can set up a lock screen message, which could be handy if you leave your phone behind and a good Samaritan finds it. 

Smartphones with fingerprint readers also have the option of unlocking with a fingerprint. Your fingerprint can also be used to authorize purchases and sign into apps. Depending on the device, you may have able to add more than one fingerprint so that trusted individuals can also open your phone.

Locking your phone with Google Find My Device

Enabling the Google Find My Device (formerly Android Device Manager) is a smart move. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can track it, ring it, lock it, or even erase it. You'll need to go into your Google settings (found either under settings or in a separate Google settings app, depending on your model.)

Go to Google > Security and enable remotely locate this device and allow remote lock and erase. Keep in mind, if you want to be able to find it, you'll have to have location services turned out while the phone is still in your hands. If you lock the phone remotely, and you don't already have a PIN, password, or pattern set up, you'll have to use a password that you set up from Find My Device. You can also add a message and a button to call a specified phone number.

Using a third-party lock screen

If the built-in options aren't enough for you, there are many third-party apps to choose from, including AcDisplay, GO Locker, SnapLock Smart Lock Screen, and Solo Locker. Apps like these offer alternate ways of locking and unlocking your phone, viewing notifications, and the ability to customize background images and themes. Snap Smart includes extras including weather and calendar widgets and the ability to control music apps right from the lock screen. Solo Locker lets you use your photos as a passcode and you can also design a lock screen interface. If you choose to download a lock screen app, you'll have to disable the Android lock screen in your device's security settings. Remember, if you decide to uninstall that app, be sure to re-enable your Android lock screen.

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