How to “Pin” Apps on Your Android Device (So Your Child Can’t Access Anything Else)

In the latest version of Android (5.x, named “Lollipop”) Google has added the ability to “Pin” an App – which means only that App is accessible until it’s “Unpinned” – and that requires a 4-16 digit numerical code or password. This guide will show you how to enable “Pinning” on your Android device, and then how to use it. Finally you can hand your child a phone or tablet with Angry Birds open and know that when you get your device back, your email will still be there :)

Obviously the Pinning feature has other ‘non-child’ related uses. If you want to lend someone your phone or tablet for a while, you can lock them into whatever App it is they want to use, keeping potentially prying eyes away from your information.

It can also be used as a “productivity” tool – you can lock yourself into your Email App and not leave until you’re done answering those unread messages :)

Let’s get started! Make sure your device is running Android 5.x (Lollipop) or higher – otherwise this feature won’t be available on your device. If you need help determining which version of Android you’re using, there’s a tutorial for that.

  1. First you’ll need to enable the “Pin” service itself. Tap Settings.
  2. the Android settings button

  3. Locate the menu titled Lock screen and security and select it. Within its settings, locate the section titled Other security settings and tap it.
  4. In the Advanced section, tap the Pin windows button.
  5. Finally, the place to enable the “Pin” feature. Switch the toggle from ‘Off’ to ‘On’.
  6. Now launch an App. Any App. Then tap (or click) the Recents button on your phone or tablet. This will bring up all of the programs currently running. Scroll through them to find the App you want to “pin”. Locate the “Pin icon” in the bottom right corner of the “preview” (as illustrated in the screenshot below) and tap it.

  7. click to enlarge

  8. Right away you’ll be prompted to confirm that you want to “Pin” this App. Important: Unless you’ve already set up a 4-16 digit PIN code and/or password to ‘lock’ your phone/tablet, all that it takes to exit out of the “Pinned” App is to press the Recents and Back buttons at the same time. This tutorial assumes that you do not have a digital code or password set and will show you how to enable one.

    Tap Start

  9. A little message will appear letting you know the Application is now currently locked on your screen.
  10. And reminds you that you can “Unpin” the App by clicking the Recents and Back buttons at the same time. If you do this, without a numeric PIN or password set – the App will become unpinned and your device will return to the ‘home screen’.

    If you have already set a PIN or password, instead of being returned to your home screen, the lock-screen will appear and you’ll need to unlock your device before any further actions can be taken.

  11. If you haven’t set a 4-16 digit PIN or password, now you’ll want to. Tap the Settings button again.
  12. the Android settings button

  13. Select Lock screen and security and then Screen lock type.
  14. Typically I like to go with a PIN – you can choose Password or Pattern if you prefer.
  15. Whatever method of lock-screen security you enable, you’ll be asked if you still want notifications to appear on your lock-screen. You can leave the default setting for now and then revisit later, or decide now. Either way, tap Done.
  16. Now try Pinning an App again.

  17. click to enlarge

  18. This time, make sure to place a check in the box labelled Ask for PIN before unpinning.
  19. Now even if your child figures out they can exit the App by pressing Recents and Back at the same time, as soon as it becomes “unpinned” – you’ll need to enter your security code in order to access the device.
  20. That’s it! It is absolutely worth mentioning that since this is a new feature to Android, there are still a few kinks that need to be worked out. Some of the Apps that I “Pinned” would crash if I pressed Recents and Back at the same time, instead of asking me for my security PIN.

  • Isa C.

    Thanks this was a great tutorial-I think I will probably use this to discipline myself as much as I will to let the kiddos play with my phone! Thanks for this.