Take these steps to secure your phone before letting anyone–even your friends–borrow it

When somebody asks to borrow your phone—perhaps a stranger asks to make a call, or a friend wants to scroll through your vacation photos—the thought can give you heart palpitations. We keep so much data and personal information on our little pocket computers that handing them over to others, even voluntarily, can seem like an invasion of privacy. But you don’t have to feel that way. Both Android and iOS include built-in options for restricting what guests can do on your smartphone.

These security tips differ from the general lock-screen protections we’ve previously discussed. That advice—for example, you should always have a PIN code protecting your phone—keeps your information safe from anyone who might steal or accidentally encounter your device. But in this guide, we’re looking at situations where you willingly hand over your smartphone.

Android

When the 5.0 Lollipop version of Android launched in 2014, the cellular operating system began including a feature called screen pinning. Essentially, this mode locks the phone’s user inside one specific app, such as a game or a photo gallery. When a guest holds a screen-pinned phone, they cannot open other apps or change the settings unless they know the PIN that unlocks full access to the device.

To set up screen pinning, go to Settings and tap Security & location, then Screen pinning. Toggle the switch to On and make sure the option to always ask for a PIN before unpinning is set to On as well. Next, open up the app you want to let your guest access, then tap the Overview button (the square on the right side of the navigation bar); recent apps will appear in a line, with the app you just accessed front and center. Drag that app to the middle of the screen, then tap the thumbtack-shaped pin button that shows up in the bottom right corner of the thumbnail. Congratulations—only that app will now be accessible to users. To restore your phone’s full function, press the Back and Overview buttons at the same time and enter the PIN code for your phone.

If you want to take further precautions, or you have one friend or relative who’s constantly borrowing your device, try out Android’s guest mode. This ability, like screen pinning, first appeared with the advent of Lollipop. It gives a frequent phone borrower their own user account, complete with independent apps, browser settings, and more. Compare it to the way that one computer can host different users, where each user gets his or her own settings, files, and layout. When someone else is using your phone in guest mode, they cannot return to your account or access your files without your unlock code.

By David Nield

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