How to Encrypt the Data on Your Android Phone or iPhone

Keep the information on your cellphone safe with these easy steps

Lock on a chain around a wood fence

Security and privacy are hot topics these days with big company data leaks and hacking on the rise. One important step you can take to protect your information is to encrypt it. This is especially important for devices that tend to be lost or stolen—such as your smartphone. Whether you prefer Android phones and tablets or iOS iPhones and iPads, you should know how to set up encryption.

Should You Encrypt Your Phone or Tablet?

You might be wondering if you need to bother with encrypting your mobile device if you don't store much personal information on it. If you already have a lock screen with a passcode or other unlock measures such as a fingerprint scanner or facial recognition, isn't that good enough?

Encryption does more than bar a person from accessing information on your cell phone, which the lock screen does. Think of the lock screen as a lock on a door: Without the key, uninvited guests can't come in and steal all your belongings.

Encrypting your data takes protection a step further. It makes the information unreadable — in essence, useless — even if somehow a hacker gets through the lock screen. Software and hardware vulnerabilities that admit hackers are found from time to time, though they're usually quickly fixed. It's also possible for determined attackers to hack lock screen passwords.

The benefit of strong encryption is the extra protection it provides for your personal information. 

The downside to encrypting your mobile data is, at least on Android devices, it takes longer for you to log in to your device because each time you do decrypts the data. Also, after you decide to encrypt your Android device, there's no way to change your mind other than factory resetting your phone.

For many people, that's worth it to keep personal information truly private and secure. For mobile professionals who work in certain industries — finance and healthcare, for example — encryption isn't optional. All devices that store or access consumers' personally identifiable information must be secured or you're not in compliance with the law.

So here are the steps needed to encrypt your mobile device.

Encrypt Your iPhone or iPad Data

  1. Set up a passcode to lock your device under Settings > Passcode.

That's it. Wasn't that easy? The PIN or passcode not only creates a lock screen, it also encrypts the iPhone or iPad data.

Not all of it, however. The things that are encrypted in this dead-easy method are your Messages, email messages and attachments, and data from some apps that offer data encryption.

You definitely should have a passcode set up, though, and not just the default 4-digit one. Use a stronger, longer passcode or passphrase in your Passcode settings. Even just two digits more make your iPhone much more secure.

Encrypt Your Android Smartphone or Tablet

On Android devices, the lock screen and the device encryption are separate but related. You can't encrypt your Android device without the screen lock turned on, and the encryption password is tied to the screen lock passcode.

  1. Unless you have a full battery change, plug in your device before beginning.

  2. Set a password of at least six characters that contains at least one number if you haven't already done this. Because this is also your screen unlock code, choose one that's easy to enter.

  3. Click Settings > Security > Encrypt Device. On some phones, you may need to choose Storage > Storage encryption or Storage > Lock screen and security > Other security settings to find the encrypt option. 

  4. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the process. 

Your device may restart several times during the encryption process. Wait until the entire process is finished before using it. 

In the Security settings screen of many phones you can also choose to encrypt an SD card.