App Lock: A Smart App that Protects Your Apps and Individual Settings

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App Lock is a free app that allows users to extend Android’s access restrictions to user defined applications.

Yes, Android devices have built-in password protection, which can be accessed via Settings -> Location & Security-> Set Up Screen Lock. From there, you can specify if you want to input a PIN code, draw a pattern or enter a password as you request onscreen access. We highly recommend you have this feature turned on at all times, irrespective of where you are, be it your home or office.

On the other hand, many of us share their smartphones and tablets with our family and friends, whether we like it or not. If we choose not to buy our kids relatively cheap tablets, so that they can enjoy the perks of digital educational apps and games on their own and not mingle with our personal stuff and spend our hard earned money on in-app purchases, we have to let them have our devices for playing games. On other occasions, particularly snoopy friends poke their noses into your Facebook or photo gallery, especially as is the case with students sharing a room or a flat.

Here is where App Lock comes around – it offers a compromise, allowing you to lock down specific apps and Android settings.

Usability

AppLock is rather straightforward in use: the main window lists all the installed apps in alphabetical order, and you can lock them with a toggle slider. You can also search for specific apps using the built-in search option. In addition, you can lock calls, text messages, Google Play access, installing and uninstalling apps permissions with App Lock. You can toy with the options and buttons at the bottom of the main screen.

App lock screenshot

You can access Unlock Settings menu from the hidden tray on the right of the home screen, and change your PIN or change it to a pattern lock, which may be more convenient.

The next time someone attempts to perform an action previously locked with App Lock, or launch a locked app, there will be a pop-up window requesting authorization login. If the password has been input incorrectly, there will be a pop-up prompt to answer your security question.

Whoever does not know your password to unlock locked apps and settings, will still be able to use the apps and features you chose to leave unlocked. Simple as that, your kids can enjoy Cut the Rope or Candy Crush Saga without having access to Google Play store, or Internet, and buying things you would not want them to buy, or accessing your corporate files and emails.

Interface

App Lock has quite a simple interface, but lacks a natural feel to its English, and at times the functions are not as transparent and self-descriptive as they should be. Even though the program had passed all security tests and does not seem to contain any ad networks in it, it just fails to explain what it is doing sometimes, especially if you opt to upgrade to a paid version. However, that does not change the fact the free version of App Lock is the perfect solution for a parent sharing his device with children, or a student sharing his room with fellow students, or an office worker having too many curious colleagues around him.

Pros

App Lock supports profiles so you can create user profiles with the access permissions of your choice. Basically, you can create a profile that has access to nothing but your kids’ games and let them play at their hearts’ content. Likewise, you can create a profile that would look as your regular Android user profile, but without access to social media accounts, emails, and photo gallery. The next time your snoopy girlfriend tries to access your personal stuff she will not be able to poke her nose into your intimate things.

The free version of App Lock offers basic functionality and the possibility to create one user profile. You will be able to upgrade to a paid App Lock for $0.99 a month or $2.99 a year and get access to more advanced features, such as time locks, location-based locks, a randomized keyboard and more.

Cons

Upgrading for a paid version is tricky, and we failed to follow-through with the process several times straight. The app requested Device Admin access and did not explain why it needed it, or what was happening during the upgrade. That brings a certain degree of a doubt, and doubts are unacceptable in a security app.

The password feature only allows numeric passwords, so this is a major security concern. However, you can enjoy more serious approach to passwords in the security question section.

Advice: use obvious questions, but input absolutely irrelevant answers. That way, there is not brute force way a snooper can guess that your first pet’s name was 2;lkj1’93n x’23uy.

One more disadvantage is that App Lock can be uninstalled; thus it would effectively remove all the protection you have set up. However, the people in your home or office are unlikely to go as far as to uninstall an obvious security app to get access to your files and expose themselves in such an obvious way.

Bottom Line

App Lock solves one of the most common privacy problems: keeping your personal files protected when you share your device with someone else. Ideally, our smartphones and tablets are supposed to be personal, but not everyone can afford or wants to buy a separate Android device to every family member, or make declare ultimatums to our friends not to snoop in our devices, ever. If that is you case, App Lock may be just the right choice for you. It is free, quite simple and offers basic functionality to lock apps and Android settings, such as contacts, emails, installing and uninstalling apps, or accessing Internet or Google Play. It is an extremely useful tool for security-minded folks with snooping roommates or children having access to their devices.

We would welcome an update with the language and transparency fixes. Other than that, it is a simple no-brainer for household situations. However, it needs polish if its developers aspire for more serious position in the security and privacy niche.