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Lollipop brings proper multi-user accounts to your phone

Lollipop will make sharing your phone easier and safer

We've had multi-user accounts on our Android tablets for some time now, but it required a bit of hackery to make it work with your Android phone. Too much hackery for something that should be standard on any phone in our opinion. The good news is that with Lollipop, this has been addressed and proper multiple user accounts and guest accounts are supported in "stock" Android.

If you've used these features on a tablet, the process and setup is mostly the same. If you've not seen it, here's a quick overview of how it works and what you can do with it.

Setting things up is easy

Of course, this only works with Lollipop, or the developer preview that's not-quite-lollipop just yet. That's where you'll need to start. Once you have it installed, things are pretty easy from there.

Pull down your notification shade, and you'll see your user icon (protip: sign into G+ and it uses your profile pic) along with the network icons in the upper right. Give your user picture a tap to open the multiple account "mini-settings" view. From there, you can choose to start a guest session or create another more permanent user.

To create a guest session, tap the icon that says "Add Guest". Your session will suspend, and the phone will switch to the guest user session. Guests have no access to your installed applications, and you can choose whether or not they can use the dialer to make and receive calls. This portion looks like it's not quite finished on the developer preview, so we're going to wait until we talk more about it. For now, it's there, and it works in the current state. Issues like the guest account seeing your notifications or having access to the settings will hopefully be addressed in a more finished build.

Create account

What does look mostly finished, and working as intended, is the actual creation of a new user. You tap the "Add User" icon to get started, and when finished going through the setup process you've got a full account with their own settings right on your phone.

There are some things we need to remember here.

  • Uninstalling an app on one account uninstalls it on all accounts
  • Accepting new permissions for an app on one account accepts them across all accounts
  • The owner of the phone can remove a secondary account at any time

Each user can have their own screen lock, and if one is used you'll need to know it to switch between accounts. The owner can also decide if a secondary account can make or receive calls, or send and receive text messages.

When you remove a secondary account, all the installed apps (just the ones that are not present on more than one account) are deleted, and all the user data is erased.

Goodbye.

So things are very much like what we're used to on our tablets. That's a good thing, because it worked well. We're excited to see how Google finished up a few things here, but it certainly looks like we'll have a proper way of using more than one account on a phone, including a guest account for those times someone needs to borrow it, when things get more final. Hurrah!

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

44 Comments
  • Have they finally put an option for battery percentage in the status bar?
  • Nope, but you can see they percentage when pulling the notification pull down menu.
  • Pull it down and you see it
  • Custom ROM. Posted via Android Central App
  • Try this :)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9cyh4rdNEQ
  • Long-time, first-time: this seems like a great solution for handing the phone to the kid. Is that a typical use case? Don't have a tablet yet, holding out for the 9.
  • Sounds like a perfect use-case to me.
  • Actually it existed in 4.2.2 and got hidden in 4.3 and hidden again in Kitkat, now it returns, and I think not a great feature for phones with low storage. XD
  • No it's been available in Tablets since 4.2 but not in phones. 5.0 makes the first time multi-user is available for phone users.
  • This Posted via the Android Central App
  • Are there any new ways to customize user accounts Posted via Nexus 7 2013 or verizon Galaxy S5 or maybe one day through my moto 360
  • My battery is draining on this build, miscellaneous on top. So I returned to kitkat.
  • Troll Jerry? Is that the account that you use to post as Yarrell? I'M ON TO YOUR SECRET, JERRY.
  • HALF LIFE 3 CONFIRMED Posted via Nexus 7 2013 or verizon Galaxy S5 or maybe one day through my moto 360
  • They best change that message, "All apps and data will be deleted" to something less dire or lots of folks who don't read articles like this one will be scared off from removing other user accounts. Maybe "All apps and data unique to this user will be deleted"? Just a thought.
  • agreed.
  • It's features like this that make me wish that Google was still making Nexus phones. This is exactly the kind of awesome feature that will be Nexus-only until the 3rd parties (Samsung, LG) release new phones next year. Even then, they're probably leave this feature out. I wish there were a 4.6" Nexus Z Compact....
  • The G3 already has guest mode. I can't imagine they would remove it, or anything that would make having that option easier for them.
  • It's stuff like this that is called bloat, until Google puts it in. I also thought Samsung has had this for a while? I could be wrong though.
  • LG G2 had it also.
  • Troll jerry? Coool. You should do one with beardless jerry. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Excellent for me as a small business owner. I like to set my phone (and myself) in "business mode" so I can separate my work life and personal life. This is excellent news. Posted via Android Central App
  • I do this too, except to separate my personal life from my online persona. I may add school to that routine and/or business down the road, too. Great to have this feature, and the proper syncing for the same concept in Chrome and Chrome OS will be brilliant. Posted via the AC App on my AT&T Red HTC M8 (GPE)
  • I've been waiting for this feature for a long time... I always feel uncomfortable when I can't say no to someone who asks to use my phone. I got in trouble recently when I let my GF use my phone and I thought everything that she's not supposed to see or read was deleted but as soon as I jumped in the shower my friend started sending texts about a conversation that we didn't finish the day before and it had to do a little bit about my GF. When I got of of the shower I was confronted with the text messages. I thought that was totally unnecessary because although it wasn't any thing bad, it was something that could have been easily avoided if i could have logged out and let her use my phone as a guest. Like me I'm sure other readers have been in an uncomfortable situation before. I'm my computer I always have it set up so that if i'm away from it for 2 minutes, it will lock itself and require that I type my password when I come back, I hope there's a way to implement that policy on an android phone as well.
  • I feel the same way. I grew up in household full of nosey people. I don't let anyone use my phone. Its not that I have stuff to hide - just hate snoopers Posted via Android Central App
  • Oh, you'll love the pinned task feature they put into 5.0! Posted from my dang awesome Moto G!
  • They need to implement it the way LG does. If you have a pattern code for your lock screen, you just set a secondary one and it automatically goes into the guest account. No need for switching, just using a different pattern.
  • +1 Posted via Android Central App
  • Finally!
  • Troll Jerry :P Posted via the Android Central App
  • This would be great for people that need their work apps and their personal apps separate.
  • Did they add an option to share media across accounts? I like to let my kids use my tablet as a game/movie device, but I can't share local media on my account to theirs.
  • How do we set which apps the guest user(no sign in) can run ? Currently it shows all default apps and some random installed apps and I can choose if the guest can make phone calls. I am not talking about setting up a different user with Google sign in but the guest user option. What am I missing ?
  • I really hope this solves the issue I've had on my phone (HTC One Max on KitKat) and tablet (Asus Memo Pad 10 on Jelly Bean). All I wanted to do was access an email on my Step-Dad's Gmail and print it Sadly it was made more difficult as my wireless printer (Epson XP-202) can't be cloud printed to, so I needed to print /save to a PDF and open in the native Epson app. I had to perform a ridiculously convoluted set of work arounds to do this: Open Step-Dad's Gmail in incognito chrome tab
    Print to Pdf (no share) which saved to Step-Dad's Drive
    Realise pdf in Drive can't be downloaded to my phone or shared to me
    End up copying email text and pasting in a word processor document to save as pdf and print. I really hope the guest account feature works. I'm still reeling from discovering that adding my SD's account to my phone synchronised my autofills, passwords and bookmarks to his account!!!
  • Does anyone know if installing apps on the primary and allowing a secondary to use it, will use twice the memory? Seems when i've used secondary users, the space for an app gets doubled which really eats into my limit.
  • Very excited about the prospect of being able to hand my phone to my daughter that has a space just for here... Separate from my stuff... So she can't break shite.
  • I am signed into G+ but it didn't sync my profile pic
    Y so?
  • Does this one work on Android One devices? I can't see the USER under DEVICE SETTING and pressing the USER icon from the notification shade just bring up my CONTACT INFO from the contacts app...
  • Maybe a simple question, but I have not found the answer in the description or comments.
    If I make 2 profiles, can I have 2 instagram/facebook accounts (one on each profile)? So I don't need to log out/log in in Instagram/Facebook every time I want to switch accounts.
  • Simple answer.... Yes. I play some android games online, specifically SimCity Buildit, and I have three different EA accounts linked to 3 different Google+ and Facebook profiles. I pull down the notification bar and choose which account to use, takes about 30 seconds to fully log in and load my game and I'm all set to trade items and money between all 3 of my accounts. Makes leveling up a breeze and this system is much easier than having my tablet and two android phones balanced on my lap, switching between the screens.
  • Hi; Iam using guest account on Xperia Z3 , i have 2 face book, instgram, twitter, Viber, whatsapp
  • The stock messaging app will be visible and shared with all users. I hope there is a workaround and/or fix for this.
  • Hi Guys! I have LG G2 mini, android 5.02 after fdr and I don't have this option at all (not through settings, nor through sliding two fingers up->down - no multiple accounts icon there, next to the settings gear, where it should be). I'd very much appreciate your help. Cheers!
  • Is android 6 support multiple users?? Pls help