Always Do This Before Letting Someone Borrow Your Phone

Always Do This Before Letting Someone Borrow Your Phone
Photo: Yaraslau Mikheyeu, Shutterstock

Smartphones have transformed our lives, mostly for the better, but they’ve also increased the access people can potentially have to your private information the moment you hand yours over. When you allow someone else access to your phone to make a call, swipe through a few pictures, or try out a new game, you might want to control what else they can do with it before you pass it off. And because these scenarios often come up without warning, you need a quick way to partially lock everything down.

This isn’t just about privacy — you might let someone’s kid borrow your phone to play a game or watch a video, and you don’t need them purchasing $700 worth of Robux while they’re in there. The goal is to restrict their access while letting them get what they need from your phone — and depending on which platform you’re using, you have options that don’t involve any third-party apps.

How to block user access on an Android phone

With Android phones, you have two basic approaches:

Guest Mode. Depending on your setup, you might be able to tap on the user icon in your Quick Settings and simply choose “Add guest.” This puts the phone into Guest Mode, which restricts access to the phone’s default apps and bars access to your data and logins. It’s only going to be available if you’ve set up an account on your phone in the first place, though, and does allow your guest to basically use the device as they would any phone, just without your logins and stored credit cards.

Screen Pinning. A more thorough restriction is to pin an app to your screen. You have to enable this in your Security settings (you might need to search for it, as different manufacturers bury it in different spots), but once it’s turned on, you can pin any app to your screen, and the guest user won’t be able to navigate away from that app without unlocking the phone with your PIN. To pin an app, just swipe up or hit your Overview button and choose “pin.” You can un-pin by swiping up and entering your PIN.

How to block user access on an iPhone

There’s a similar process for an iPhone, but it’s called “Guided Access.” You’ll find the option under the Accessibility settings. Once enabled, you can do the following any time some sticky-fingered kid wants to peruse YouTube videos on your phone:

  1. Open the intended app.
  2. Triple-click the side or home button, depending on your OS version. You can also say “Siri, turn on Guided Access.”
  3. You can circle things on your screen with your finger if you want to disable specific areas, but that’s optional.
  4. Tap Start, then enter your passcode.

Your phone will now allow someone to use only the app on the screen, without any access to anything else.