Android Phone Locks - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Your Android phone comes with a lock, the simple touchscreen gizmo you slide to unlock the phone and gain access to its information and features. For most folks, this lock is secure enough. For others, the lock is about as effective as using a kitten to frighten an alligator.

Finding the screen locks

All screen locks on the phone can be found in the same location: on the Choose Screen Lock screen. Heed these steps to visit that screen:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Choose the Security item.

    This item may have another name, such as Lock Screen. If you see both a Security and Lock Screen item, choose Lock Screen.

    On some Samsung phones, you choose the Lock Screen item on the Device tab in the Settings app.

  3. Choose Screen Lock.

    If you don’t see a Screen Lock item, look for the item titled Set Up Screen Lock or Change Screen Lock.

If the screen lock is already set, you have to work the lock to proceed: Trace the pattern, or type the PIN or password. You then get access to the Choose Screen Lock screen, which shows several items:

  • None: The phone has no lock, not even the basic swipe screen lock. Choosing this option disables all screen locks.

  • Slide: Unlock the phone by swiping your finger across the screen. This item might also be titled Swipe.

  • Pattern: Trace a pattern on the touchscreen to unlock the phone.

  • PIN: Unlock the phone by typing a personal identification number (PIN).

  • Password: Type a password to unlock the phone.

Additional items might also appear, such as the Face Unlock as well as any custom unlocking screens added by the phone’s manufacturer.

The locks don’t appear when you answer an incoming phone call. You’re prompted, however, to unlock the phone if you want to use its features while you’re on a call.

Removing a lock

To disable the pattern, PIN, or password screen lock on your phone, choose the None or Slide option from the Choose Screen Lock screen. When None is chosen, the phone has no lock screen. When Slide is chosen, the phone uses the standard slide lock.

Setting a PIN

The PIN lock is second only to the password lock as the most secure for your Android phone. To access the phone you must type a PIN, or Personal Identification Number. This type of screen lock is also employed as a backup for the less-secure screen unlocking methods.

The PIN lock is a code between 4 and 16 numbers long. It contains only numbers, 0 through 9. To set the PIN lock for your Android phone, go to the Choose Screen Lock screen. Choose PIN from the list of locks.

Use the onscreen keypad to type your PIN once. Touch the Continue button, then type the same PIN again to confirm that you know it. Touch OK. The next time you unlock the phone, you’ll need to type the PIN to gain access.

To disable the PIN, reset the security level.

Applying a password

The most secure way to lock the phone’s screen is to apply a full-on password. Unlike a PIN, a password contains a combination of numbers, symbols, and uppercase and lowercase letters.

Set the password by choosing Password from the Choose Screen Lock screen. The password you create must be at least four characters. Longer passwords are more secure but easier to mistype.

You type the password twice to set things up, which confirms to the phone that you know the password and will, you hope, remember it in the future.

The phone prompts you to type the password whenever you unlock the screen. You also type the password when you change or remove the screen lock.

Creating an unlock pattern

The unlock pattern is perhaps the most popular, and certainly the most unconventional, way to lock an Android phone’s screen. The pattern must be traced on the touchscreen to unlock the phone.

To set the unlock pattern, follow these steps:

  1. Summon the Choose Screen Lock screen.

  2. Choose Pattern.

    If you haven’t yet set a pattern, you may see the tutorial describing the process; touch the Next button to skip merrily through the dreary directions.

  3. Trace an unlock pattern.

    Use the following figure as your guide. You can trace over the dots in any order, but you can trace over a dot only once. The pattern must cover at least four dots.


  4. Touch the Continue button.

  5. Redraw the pattern again, just to confirm that you know it.

  6. Touch the Confirm button, and the pattern lock is set.

    Some phones may require you to type a PIN or password as a backup to the pattern lock. If so, follow the onscreen directions to set that lock as well.

Ensure that a check mark appears by the Make Pattern Visible option, found on the Security, Screen Security screen. That way, the pattern shows up when you need to unlock the phone. For even more security, you can disable this option, but you must remember how and where the pattern goes.

  • The unlock pattern can be as simple or as complex as you like.

  • Wash your hands! Smudge marks on the display can betray your pattern.