How to Lock Apps on Any iPhone

The best ways to ensure privacy for your apps

Whether you want to protect your app settings or stop the kids from seeing something they shouldn't, this guide explains how to lock apps on any iPhone.

If you don't use an iPhone, you can lock apps on Android.

How to Lock First-Party Apps on iOS

iOS doesn't have a system-level feature that allows the locking of apps individually, so at the moment, the number of apps you can individually lock remains limited. However, there are workarounds and fixes you can use, and while some of these don't directly lock individual apps, they produce much the same effect.

Person locking apps on iPhone
Lifewire / Miguel Co

A first-party app is an app that Apple creates (as opposed to an app from another software maker).

This first set of directions is only for iPhones with iOS 12 or newer.

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Go to Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions.

  3. Tap Allowed Apps.

  4. Turn off the toggle switches (tap them to make the switch white) for apps you don't want to use.

    Content & Privacy Restrictions, Allowed Apps, toggle button to OFF in iOS Settings > Screen Time
  5. Tap the Back button or swipe up to go to the Home screen.

Instructions for Older Devices

Use these instructions if your iPhone has iOS 11 or below.

One simple app lock method that works for all iPhones—but only for first-party Apple apps—involves the use of Restrictions. Go to Settings > General, then scroll down and navigate to Restrictions > Enable Restrictions. Once prompted, enter a new passcode (twice to confirm).

After you enable restrictions and enter a new passcode, you're presented with a variety of options. In the Allow section, you have the option of disallowing a range of first-party apps, such as Safari, Siri, and FaceTime. This doesn't include apps you downloaded. By swiping the green toggle icon to the off position, you can stop any disallowed apps from appearing on your Home screen. In other words, this isn't an app lock method so much as a temporary app removal method, since apps you lock in this way won't be accessible to you until you re-allow the apps.

In the Allow Content section, you can set parental controls on the type of content and media someone can view on your phone. In addition, you can use the Privacy section to prevent changes from being made to your various privacy settings, and use the Allow Changes section to freeze a range of options, such as the volume limit.

Set Time Limits for Apps

You can also set time limits for apps, which is similar to locking apps away from your own use.

Screen Time was introduced in iOS 12, so it only works on iPhones with iOS 12 or newer.

Go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits > Add Limit.

Screen Time, App Limits, Add Limit buttons in iOS Settings

In the list of apps, make a decision on which to restrict access. Tap the checkbox button to the left of the app category you want to restrict, for example, Social Networking.

Choose a time limit for the use of that app category (such as 1 hour). You can also customize the days you want this restriction in place. Tap the Add button to save the settings.

Checkbox, time restrictions, and App Limits list on iOS settings

Password App Lock: How to Lock Apps on iPhone Using Guided Access

Guided Access is something of a nuclear app lock option, in that it prevents you from leaving the app you're currently using. Still, it could come in handy if your child wants to use a particular app on your phone, but you're worried that they might venture elsewhere.

Guided Access requires iOS 11.

  1. From Settings, go to General > Accessibility > Guided Access.

  2. Swipe the Guided Access toggle switch to the green/on position.

  3. Go to Passcode Settings > Set Guided Access Passcode.

    Accessibility, Guided Access, Passcode Settings, Set Guided Access Passcode buttons in iOS Settings
  4. Enter a new passcode and then enter it again to confirm. You can also enable Face ID on this screen.

After you enable Guided Access and set your passcode, use the feature by opening any app and pressing the Side button three times (on an iPhone X) or the Home button three times, once the app has started.

This displays the Guided Access start screen, which lets you draw a circle around the areas of the screen to disable (set it to either cover the entire screen or none of it). Alternatively, choose Options in the lower-right corner of the screen, which can be used to disable everything from the volume buttons to the touchscreen, as well as set a time limit on the Guided Access session (up to 24 hours).

If you own a Touch ID-enabled iPhone, use Touch ID, instead of a passcode, to end a Guided Access session. To enable this, follow steps 1–5 above, but at step 6, after tapping Passcode Settings, toggle Touch ID to the on/green position.

App Lock Fingerprint: How to Use Touch ID to Lock Compatible Apps (on iPhone 5S to iPhone 8)

With Touch ID, it's possible to lock a limited number of compatible apps using the fingerprint-based security feature (available on the iPhone 5S through the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus).

To lock Apple Pay, iTunes, and the App Store in this way, open Settings and go to Touch ID & Passcode to enter your passcode. Then, turn on the toggle switches (to the green/on position) for the apps you wish to lock using Touch ID.

Touch ID settings on an iPhone

If you haven't set up Touch ID, you're prompted to do so when turning on any available option.

The above covers only Apple Pay, iTunes, and the App Store, however. Using Touch ID to lock apps you download from the App Store requires a different process, and many popular apps (such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat) don't enable this process, meaning that you can't lock these apps individually.

There's a growing number of apps that offer the option to lock apps using Touch ID, while a smaller number also offer the option to lock apps using a passcode.

Generally, doing this requires the following:

  1. Open the Touch ID-compatible app.

  2. Go into its settings.

  3. Find the option that locks the app with a password or with your fingerprint. It might be in a Privacy or Preferences section, and could be called Password, Passcode, Touch ID Lock, Lock, Screen Lock, or anything similar.

    Screen Lock settings in an iOS app
  4. If needed, follow any on-screen steps to complete the app lock procedure.

How to Lock Apps on iPhone Using a Third-Party App

There is one last option if you want to lock apps directly, and it involves using a third-party app.

In one respect, this is the best option for locking apps since there are a number of apps available that, in one way or another, block access to every app on your iPhone using a passcode (or biometric ID). However, it's also the worst app lock option for iPhone. To use these apps, your iPhone must be jailbroken (which may create security vulnerabilities and performance issues; it's not recommended).

Some popular examples of third-party apps that lock other apps include BioProtect, Locktopus, and AppLocker. These can be downloaded and installed using the Cydia platform, which is home to apps specifically designed for jailbroken iPhones.

In the case of BioProtect, once the app has been downloaded, you can lock specific apps by going to Settings > Applications under the Protected Items section, and then toggling the apps you wish to lock into the green/on position.

Something else to consider for your app locking needs is to nix the idea completely. Depending on your needs, a third-party vault app might be all you need to hide things like images and notes, making them accessible only after the correct password has been entered.

If you don't necessarily need to lock the whole app (such as Photos), but instead just specific things like private images, documents, or videos, you might have luck with one of those apps.