Google Pixel 3a XLSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

We've all been in a situation where we've nervously handed our phones to a friend or coworker, worried that they'd inadvertently (or intentionally) close an app or look somewhere they shouldn't. That anxiety is exponentially magnified when handing your phone to a child. Many of us are doing this with increased frequency to entertain or distract our kids while we are busy working from home. But fear not, there is a way to keep others from poking their noses where they don't belong and/or shutting down critical apps. Android has a handy feature called pinning lets you keep an app on the main screen when you hand it over to another to use, and other OEMs like Samsung have additional permissions like locking an app to keep it in memory. I'll show you how to set these up on your Android smartphone.

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How to pin apps on an Android phone

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Security & location.
  3. Scroll down and tap on Advanced.

    Pin Moto Android 1Pin Moto Android 2Pin Moto Android 3Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  4. Tap on Screen pinning.
  5. Toggle the slider to On.
  6. If you want added security, Toggle the Ask for PIN before unpinning to On.

    Pin Moto Android 4Pin Moto Android 5Pin Moto Android 5aSource: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  7. Open the multitasker view for your recent apps.
  8. Press on the app icon on the top of the app preview. A context menu card will pop up on the bottom of the screen.
  9. Tap on Pin.

    Pin Moto Android 6Pin Moto Android 7Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  10. To unpin the app, you'll need to press and hold both the back and multipurpose buttons (or swipe up and hold if you're utilizing gesture navigation) and then enter your PIN or biometric information to log back into the phone.

Note in the last step that the process of unpinning an app is different depending on whether you are utilizing the three-button layout or gesture navigation.

Regardless of which navigation method you use, I strongly encourage you to pay attention to step 6 and require PIN/biometric info before unpinning an app. This requires the user to log back into the phone to use it after unpinning an app. This is an added security measure so that your kid (or whoever you hand your phone to) can't just disable the feature and run amok with your apps.

How to pin and lock apps on a Samsung Galaxy phone

Many OEMs add features to their phones beyond "stock" Android, and Samsung is one of the most prolific in this regard. In addition to app pinning, you can just lock an app in memory (not necessarily pin the screen). We'll cover both use cases below.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Biometrics and security.

    Samsung One UI Pin Lock 1Samsung One UI Pin Lock 2Samsung One UI Pin Lock 3Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  3. Scroll down and tap on Other security settings.
  4. Scroll down and tap on Pin windows.

    Samsung One UI Pin Lock 4Samsung One UI Pin Lock 5Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  5. Open the multitasker view to see your recent apps.
  6. Press on the app icon on the top of the app preview. A context menu card will pop up on the bottom of the screen.
  7. To pin an app, return to the multitasker view and tap on the app icon.
  8. Tap Pin this app.
  9. To lock an app, tap on Lock this app.

    Samsung One UI Pin Lock 6Samsung One UI Pin Lock 7Samsung One UI Pin Lock 9Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  10. To unlock the app, just swipe up from the bottom and hold, or return to the multitasker view and tap again on the app icon. Then tap Unlock this app.
  11. To unpin the app, just swipe up from the bottom and hold. You will have to unlock the phone to use it again.

    Samsung One UI Pin Lock 10Samsung One UI Pin Lock 8Source: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

  12. To unlock the phone, you'll have to reenter your PIN or your biometric info (fingerprint or face unlock).

Remember, pinning an app holds it in place on the home screen and prevents users from leaving the app. Pinning also prevents the system from interrupting the app with notifications or updates.

Locking an app (Samsung) is not quite as restrictive; instead, it merely keeps the app in memory so that it isn't as easy to force quit, even when you close all apps.

Conclusion

Now you know how to keep your little ones in the app that you intended, and not allow them to wander about your precious phone. This little trick works well for adults too, so that the next time your coworker asks to look something up on your phone, you can rest assured they'll only be exploring in Chrome and not creeping in your messaging apps or photo gallery.

If you want to take further steps to control your kids' phone habits, check out these great resources.

Keep your kids and your phone safe!