First things first: You should definitely secure your smartphone’s lock screen. That’s a given.
Just like any other valuables you own—jewelry, personal documents, family heirlooms, children—your smartphone needs to be locked up, safe and sound, to ensure it isn’t compromised or stolen. (OK, just kidding about the children.)
For Android owners, your phone has more than a few built-in, secure lock screen options. Android also facilitates the use of secured lock screen replacement apps that you can download in the Google Play store. There are several worth trying.
So here’s how to keep the information on your Android phone safe—and in the way you want to, at that.
To get to your phone’s security options, open the Settings app from the app drawer or via the pull-down notification panel on devices running Android 4.0 or newer. Touch the Security label, and you should see a Screen lock option. Tapping that will take you to a screen that shows all the lock screen security options. The Slide lock screen is the simple, yet unsecured, “slide-to-unlock” method that your phone is probably set to by default.
The lock screen security options that come on your phone will depend on which Android device you have. Most models offer security via PIN, which is a four-digit number like your ATM password; Password, which can be any mix of numbers or letters of your choosing; or a traceable Pattern key.
Tapping any of these lock screen security options will take you into a step-by-step process for activating it.
Some Android smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Google Nexus 5, also have a Face Unlock option. This allows you to use your front-facing camera to unlock your phone. After configuring it (from the same Screen lock options screen), the feature will recognize your face and accept it as a key. Since, as a setup disclaimer will admit, this feature is not the most secure or practical option available, you will be asked to create a backup PIN to gain access to your phone in instances of bad lighting or other errors.
As far as third-party options go, we’ve tested ICE Unlock Fingerprint Secure, which uses your phone’s camera to validate your fingerprint to unlock your device, and SkipLock, which bypasses your phone’s PIN lock screen when you’re connected to home WiFi (or any other WiFi spots that you deem “safe”). Each app integrated well with Android, though in the case of ICE, similar to the Face Unlock, reliability was spotty and a backup PIN was necessary.
So remember: No matter which way you choose to lock it up, it’s always a good idea to do so. Stay safe!
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