5 ways to keep your personal stuff private when lending a smartphone

by: Edgar CervantesFebruary 16, 2016
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photo-spyShutterstock

“Don’t you dare swipe through my pictures!” – I have no idea how many times I have heard that, and I am sure you have too. It’s an ongoing problem trying to keep your files private when lending your phone to others, even if for a few seconds.

And the picture swiping is just one factor, there is so much more stuff in there we would not trust to even our closest family members. I have actually gone as far as factory resetting my phone when lending a device, of course only if it’s for a few hours or more.

Is hovering over your friend’s shoulder the only way to stay safe, though? Not really, there are some great tools that can help you keep your data away from prying eyes. Let’s show you some of our favorite methods for keeping private things… private.

Focus

No, we are not asking you to simply pay attention (though you should do that too). Focus is actually a gallery app, but it does more than just organize pictures and display them (which, by the way, it also does very well).

focus-main

What we are focusing on today (no pun intended) is the app’s ability to hide images. Let your friends swipe left and right, because they will find nothing after you have set everything up with Focus. There is one catch, though, not all features are free. It costs a bit over $3 to get the premium features.

Once you have paid your way in you will be set. The most relevant to this post is ‘The Vault’. Users can easily pick which pictures are in this vault, which only the owner can access by using a PIN code of his/her choosing.

focus-mainSee also: Focus: a complete gallery app that prioritizes ease of use, organization and security4

But maybe you still don’t want people swiping left and right. In this case, there is also a feature to lock your Focus gallery, effectively stopping friends from swiping left or right. Simply tap on the image you want to display; once you have accessed it, tap the 3-dot menu button and select “Lock”. You will then need a pass code to unlock the gallery.

You are set! No one will be snooping through your pictures anymore.

Download Focus

How about other files?

It’s not only images and videos you want to keep secret, right? Remember our digital life is now in our smartphones. We have all kinds of files in here, so let’s make sure they are safe. Whether it’s documents, videos, audio files or anything else, using a third-party app like File Hide Expert will be your best bet for keeping things private.

File Hide Expert is free and works like a charm. And it helps that the app is actually very easy to use. It pretty much works like a file manager, but gives you the option to hide any documents or files on your smartphone. Alternatively, you can also hide them all. Seems pretty extreme, but you may like that; and it’s just as easy to restore them all by pressing a single button.

best file manager apps for androidSee also: 13 best Android file explorer apps, file browser apps, and file manager apps122

file-hide-explorer

Those who need an extra layer of security will also like the fact that there is a password protection option. Because, you know, otherwise anyone could go into the app and just restore all your private files.

Download File Hide Expert

You can also do it manually

An app like File Hide Expert makes things easier on you, but the truth is you don’t really need it to hide files. You can make documents private manually, but it’s more of a workaround, as opposed to a solution.

All you need to do is use a file manager (if you don’t have one, there’s plenty on the Google Play Store) to rename any file and put a “.” at the beginning of the existing title. In essence, you are not really hiding the file. You are just naming it in a way that the Android operating system will ignore it.

Hiding apps

nova-launcher-hide-appsApps are important. After all, these are really what will make or break a platform. There are well over 1.6 million apps in the Google Play Store (as of July 2015), so it’s only obvious some of these are not for everyone’s eyes to see.

Some manufacturers will give you the option to hide apps in your app drawer. Those of us who are not so lucky have to rely on a third-party launcher. A couple popular ones that sport this feature are Apex Launcher and Nova launcher.

Download Nova Launcher
Download Apex Launcher

Use a separate profile!

Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean brought forth one of the most requested features the most popular mobile OS was missing – user profiles. This was great for families and other people who enjoy shared devices, but it also marked another step in mobile privacy. Sharing all your files and settings is now a thing of the past.

The best part is that you don’t really need to create a whole other Profile. simply use Guest mode if you need to keep things secure and let your buddy borrow the phone for a while. And since your personal profile can stay secured with a password, PIN, fingerprint or pattern, you don’t need to worry about them going into your stuff. Piece of cake!

Multiple user profiles

Wrapping up

There you have it, guys. There are more than enough ways to keep your goodies (or naughty secrets) away from strangers’ eyes. You just need to grab some tools and know the right information. What other methods do you guys use to keep your files safe from pesky intruders who want to keep swiping through your private stuff?

  • Ano Niem

    Tried more user profiles on different devices with KK and LP, MM not yet. Battery drain is huge with extra user. Like the satan of Android named Google Services is draining double. Completely garbage more users on Android.

    For my important, very personal and some nsfw files I use EDS. Since JB until now MM on Nexus and Moto with root via fuse mount r/w Truecrypt, Vetacrypt, etc. encrypted containers. Also video streaming works excellent. Could lose my device without lockscreen password and would not lose a second sleep over it.

    Next to this a honey pot of personal files with fabricated fake important stuff. Like for previous nosy very jaleaus borderliner ex bitch.

    And some apps passwoed protected with Lockdown Pro when temp lending phone. But those kind of apps are so easy to hack for anyone via Android settings.

    • Armaan Modi

      If you turn on the administrator setting, is lockdown pro still uninstallable by others?

  • Rohit Raja

    Before lending your phone – TIP no. 1 – DO not lend your phone, you never know what kinda creep youve been trusting all along..

  • Sergio Arroyo

    Not a lot of people are on Lollipop yet but the rest seem really good!

  • Josh Adams

    Nice article. Didn’t know of these options. One nice touch Samsung included is Private Mode. You can hide any file you want, and once Private Mode is enabled via fingerprint, you have access to it.

    …sorry if that came off as an ad for Samsung…gotta rep your phone.