How to Lock Apps On Any iPhone

Four ways to ensure privacy for your apps

Ant Palmer/Getty Images

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.

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 a number of workarounds and fixes you can use, and while some of these don't directly lock individual apps, they produce much the same effect.

Instructions for iOS 12 and Above

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap Screen Time

  3. Select Content & Privacy Restrictions

  4. Tap Allowed Apps.

  5. Toggle all the green switches to OFF for apps you don't want to use.

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

Instructions for iOS 11 and Below

One simple app lock method that works for all iPhones — but works only with first-party Apple apps – involves the use of Restrictions. A first-party app is an app that Apple creates (as opposed from another software maker):

Go to Settings > General. Then scroll down and tap Restrictions > Enable Restrictions.

Once prompted, enter a new Passcode and then enter again to confirm. Note it down and store away if need be.

Having enabled restrictions and entered a new Passcode, you'll then be presented with a variety of options. Firstly, under the ALLOW subheading, you'll have the option of disallowing a range of first-party apps, such as Safari, Siri, and FaceTime. This doesn't include apps you've downloaded (see below), but by swiping the green toggle icon to the off position, you'll be able to 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 even to you until you re-allow them.

By scrolling to the ALLOWED CONTENT subheading, you can also set parental controls on the type of content/media someone can view on your phone. In addition, you can use the PRIVACY subheading to prevent changes from being made to your various privacy settings, and use the ALLOW CHANGES subheading to freeze a range of miscellaneous options, such as your Volume Limit.

Set Time Limits for Apps

You can also set time limits for your apps, which is kind of like locking apps away from your own use.

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

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

Once you see the list of apps, you'll get to make a decision on which to restrict access.

Tap the checkbox button to the left of the app category (like Social Networking) you want to restrict.

Choose a time limit for use of that app category (eg, 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 effectively 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 she or he might venture elsewhere.

  1. Go to Settings on the iPhone Home screen

  2. Tap General

  3. Tap Accessibility

  4. Scroll down and tap Guided Access

  5. Swipe the Guided Access toggle button in the green On position

  6. Tap Passcode Settings and then Set Guided Access Passcode.

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

Once you've enabled Guided Access and set your Passcode, you can then use the feature by opening any app and pressing the Home button three times once the app has started.

iPhone X users will have to press the Side button three times.

Doing this will bring up the Guided Access start screen, which allows you to draw a circle around the areas of the screen you wish to disable (you can set it to cover the entire screen or none of it). Alternatively, you can click the Options button in the bottom-right corner of the screen, which can be used to disable everything from the Volume Buttons to the touchscreen, and to set a time limit on the Guided Access session (up to 24 hours).

And finally, if you own a Touch ID-enabled iPhone, you can use Touch ID to end a Guided Access session, instead of a passcode. To enable this, you need simply follow steps 1-5 above, but then at step 6, after tapping Passcode Settings, you toggle Touch ID into the On position.

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

And speaking of Touch ID, it's possible to lock a limited number of compatible apps using the fingerprint-based security feature (which is available on the iPhone 5S through to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus). Here's what you have to do to lock Apple Pay, iTunes and the App Store using the feature:

  1. Go to Settings on the iPhone Home screen

  2. Tap Touch ID & Passcode

  3. Enter your Passcode

You can then swipe the toggles into the green On position for the apps you wish to lock using Touch ID. It's worth noting that if you haven't already set up Touch ID, you will be prompted to do so when switching on any of the available options.

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 in fact many popular apps (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder) don't enable this process, meaning that you can't lock them individually.

Still, there are a growing number apps that do offer users the option to lock them using Touch ID, while a smaller number also offer the option to lock them using an old-fashioned passcode. Generally, doing this requires the following:

  1. Open the Touch ID-compatible app.

  2. Go to its Settings.

  3. Tap Preferences, or a similar option.

  4. Tap one final option, which in the case of the app I used – Momento – is called Lock (but in other cases it can be called Passcode & Touch ID).

You can also follow steps 1-3 to find out whether a desired app permits its users to lock it.

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

There is one last option if you want to lock your 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, let you block access to every single app on your iPhone using a passcode (or biometric ID). However, from another angle, it's also the worst app lock option for iPhone, since in order to use these apps your iPhone must be jailbroken, something which lets you bypass the restrictions Apple places on its smartphones (but which may create security vulnerabilities and performance issues). We do not recommend jailbreaking your iOS device.

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

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