AH Primetime: Protect Your Device Before It's Borrowed

Even though many people have a smartphone or at least a cell 'phone, there are still occasions when somebody asks you if they might borrow yours. Perhaps they need to make a quick call and their battery is out. Perhaps their device has been lost or stolen and they need to report this or organize a lift home. For whatever the reason, many of us are uncomfortable with letting a stranger borrow our device. In some cases, it's worse letting a friend or loved one borrow our device. It doesn't matter why - be it the horrifying thought of somebody else looking through our messages, pictures or even applications. We call it a cell (or mobile) 'phone but it may as well be a personal 'phone.

Fortunately, there are two ways to protect our device or more particularly, the contents of the device. These two methods - Guest Mode and Screen Pinning - were introduced with Android 5.0 Lollipop and as such may not be supported on all devices, depending on any manufacturers' skin. To write about the Guest Mode Account first, this is whereby you can have another user log into your handset. You can either use the Guest Mode itself or if there is somebody who frequently uses your device, you can create a new user profile instead. Guest Mode creates a new user account and firewalls most of the information connected to your account, which means most settings from wallpaper to the ring tone. Some settings are transferred between the accounts, most notably WiFi and mobile network settings. Pictures on built-in storage are only available for one user but anything on a MicroSD card will be available for other users. To access Guest Mode, tap your avatar at the top of the quick settings screen and pick Guest (the first time you'll need to tap Add Guest). You can block access to text messages and calls from the Settings, User menu when you are signed in; Guest Mode is perfect for providing somebody with temporary Internet access, including the provision for application installations.

The second method is faster to set up and use but offers less functionality, and that is Screen Pinning. Screen Pinning simply locks the selected application on your device until the lock code is entered. It's an idea to allow a stranger to make a call or a younger family member to play a game. The option needs to be turned on and your device will also need a PIN or pattern code, so you may need to visit the Settings, Security tab here. Once your device is set up, to pin an application you need to first launch it. Then, switch to the application overview (formerly known as the multitasking menu; tap the square soft key) and drag the application you wish to pin up the screen. You'll see a pin button at the bottom right of the display: tap this and the application is now pinned to the front screen. To quit from a pinned application on the device, you'll need to hold the back and overview buttons down and then enter either your lock pattern or PIN.

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About the Author

David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.