How to Lock Apps on Android

Lock a single app or all of them on Android to keep out curious eyes

Embed Share Buy the print Comp Save to Board Security of digital screen with padlock

TEK IMAGE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images 

There are a few practical ways to lock specific apps on Android devices, including guest accounts, screen pinning, third-party apps, and the Samsung Secure Folder. Learn how to lock apps on Android in the foreground or limit access to them altogether.

Instructions in this article apply to all smartphones and tablets with Android 7.0 (Nougat) or later. Upgrade your version of Android to follow along with this guide.

How to Lock Apps on Android With Screen Pinning

Screen pinning locks an app in open view. Attempting to close it or access the home screen prompts the lock screen security input.

To see which version of Android is installed on your device, go to Settings, then tap About Phone > Software Information.

For Android 10 and Android 9.0 Pie

Pin an app's screen to keep it in view until you unpin it.

  1. Open Settings and select Security or Security & location.

  2. Select Advanced.

  3. Select Screen pinning.

    Security & location, Advanced, and Screen pinning links in Android settings
  4. Turn on the Screen pinning toggle switch to enable screen pinning.

    To get the most out of screen pinning and guest accounts, set a secure lock screen pin, password, or pattern beforehand.

  5. Select Ask for PIN before unpinning to enable it for increased security.

    Ask for PIN before unpinning toggle to ON
  6. Select the Overview icon (the square in the black bar at the bottom of the screen), then tap the app you wish to pin.

  7. Select Pin.

  8. Choose Got it.

    Overview button, Got it button in Android
  9. Press and hold Back and Overview simultaneously to unpin the app.

  10. Enter your pin, pattern, password, or biometric security option to unpin the screen.

  11. The app is unpinned.

For Android 8.0 Oreo and 7.0 Nougat

If using the previous versions of Android:

  1. Open Settings, then tap Lock Screen and Security.

  2. Select Other security settings.

  3. Select Pin windows.

  4. Select the toggle to enable screen pinning.

  5. Select the Ask for PIN before unpinning toggle switch to enable it.

  6. Select Overview, then open the app window you want to lock to the front.

  7. Select the thumbtack in the lower-right corner, then tap OK.

    Pin icon and OK button on Android
  8. Select and hold the Back and Overview icons to unpin the window.

  9. Enter your pattern, pin, password, or scan your biometric security option to unpin the app.

How to Lock Apps With a Guest Account on Android

To keep your apps, settings, and files out of view, enable a guest account before sharing your device with someone. A guest account functions the same as a regular account; however, it uses separate instances of the applications on your device.

With a guest account enabled, your apps and information are not accessible.

For Android 10.0, Pie 9.0 and Oreo 8.0

To create a guest account in Android 10, Pie, and Oreo:

  1. Tap Settings, then tap System.

  2. Select Advanced.

  3. Select Multiple users.

  4. Select Guest to switch the user account, or tap the gear icon on the far right to enable phone calls.

  5. Turn on the Turn on phone calls toggle switch to enable it if you wish to continue receiving calls while the guest account is active.

  6. Select OK when the dialog box appears.

  7. It's also possible to switch to a guest account by expanding the notification panel and tapping the user icon in the lower-right section. Select Guest to change the user account.

For Android Nougat 7.0

To enable a guest account on Android 7:

  1. Go to Settings > Cloud and accounts > Users, then select Guest.

  2. Swipe down to view your quick settings panel, then choose the user icon in the upper-right corner.

  3. Select Guest.

Lock Apps on Android With the Samsung Secure Folder

With Secure Folder, you can protect selected apps by locking them with the security option of your choice. If your device didn't come with Secure Folder and the device has Android 7 or higher, download it from Google Play or Galaxy apps.

Secure Folder comes pre-installed on Samsung's flagship devices, including the Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, Galaxy S8/S8+, Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy S9/S9+, etc.

  1. Select Settings, then tap Biometrics and security.

  2. Select Secure Folder.

    Lock screen and security, Secure startup buttons in Android settings
  3. Select Lock type.

  4. Choose Select lock type (or a biometric option, if available).

  5. Select Pattern, Pin, or Password, then continue by entering your selection and confirming it.

    Lock type, Select lock type, and Pattern/PIN/Password options in Android settings
  6. Select Secure Folder from the app drawer, then tap Add apps.

  7. Select the apps you wish to include in Secure Folder, then tap Add.

  8. Select Lock in the upper-left corner.

    Secure Folder Add apps, Drive icon, Lock button on Android
  9. A brief message appears indicating Secure Folder is now locked. Attempting to access Secure Folder prompts the lock type you selected earlier.

  10. Enter your pattern, pin, password, or scan your biometric security option.

    Secure Folder locked message, and Enter PIN field on Android
  11. The app is unpinned.

How to Lock Apps on Android With Mobile Applications

Mobile tools such as App Lock and Security Master lock your apps and protect your files. Most apps that lock or protect your device's content require a few permissions and system privileges, such as displaying over other apps and accessibility usages.

How to Set a Password for Apps With Norton App Lock on Android

Norton App Lock by Symantec is a useful tool for protecting applications and private files stored on your device. Norton App Lock is free to download and supports Android 4.1 and up. You can restrict access to all apps or choose specific apps to lock:

  1. Go to the Norton App Lock Google Play page, then select Install.

  2. Once installed, select Open.

    Install and Open buttons in Google Play for Norton App Lock
  3. Review the License Agreement, Terms of Use, and the Privacy Policy, then select Agree & Launch.

  4. Select OK.

  5. Select the Allow display over other apps toggle switch.

    Agree & Launch, OK, and Allow display over other apps toggle to ON
  6. Select Setup.

  7. Select Norton App Lock Service.

    Setup, Norton App Lock Service
  8. Turn on the Use service toggle switch.

  9. Select OK.

    Use service toggle to ON, OK button in Norton App Lock Service
  10. Draw an unlock pattern or tap Switch to Passcode, then enter a password.

  11. Draw your unlock pattern again to confirm, or tap Reset to re-enter it.

    Draw your unlock pattern once again to confirm, or tap RESET to re-enter it.
  12. Select Choose Google Account.

  13. Select the Google account you wish to use for password resetting, then select OK.

  14. Select Continue.

    Choose Google account, choose an account, Continue buttons for Norton App Lock
  15. Select the yellow lock icon in the upper-right corner, then select the lock next to the apps you wish to passcode protect.

    Yellow lock icon, Docs app, passcode entry screen for Norton Apps Lock

    Select the yellow lock whenever you want to enable or disable the app lock.

  16. Once apps are locked, only the passcode you created earlier will grant access.

You can lock apps on an iPhone, too.