Screen Lock Options for Your Android Tablet

By Dan Gookin

If you keep anything important on your Android tablet or you have multiple users on the same tablet or you access a corporate email account, you need Lock screen security. This means adding more security than the simple swipe screen lock.

Finding the screen locks

The keys to your Android tablet’s screen locks are found within the Settings app. Here’s how to get there:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Choose Security.

    On Samsung tablets, tap the Device tab and look for the Lock Screen item on the left side of the screen.

  3. Choose Screen Lock.

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

  4. Work any existing screen lock to continue.

    Eventually you see the Choose Screen Lock screen, which might instead be called Select Screen Lock.

Several locks are shown on the Select Screen Lock screen. The stock Android screen locks are

  • Swipe: Unlock the tablet by swiping your finger across the screen.

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

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

  • Password: Type a password to unlock the tablet.

Other locks may be available, including Face Unlock, Fingerprint, Signature, and even the None lock, which isn’t a lock at all.

  • The most secure locks are the PIN and password. Using one or the other is required if the tablet has multiple users or a kid’s account or it accesses a secure email server.

  • If your tablet is encrypted, you may be prompted to require the screen lock (pattern, PIN, or password) to start the device. It’s a good idea to require the screen lock; choose the option Require Lock to Start Device, where lock is the type of screen lock being applied.

  • There is no recovery method available if you forget your tablet’s PIN or password screen locks. If you use them, write them down somewhere inconspicuous, just in case.

Removing the screen lock

You don’t remove the screen lock on your Android tablet as much as you replace it. Specifically, to remove the pattern, PIN, or password screen lock, set the swipe lock. Get to the Select Screen Lock screen and change the existing screen lock to something else.

Setting a PIN

The PIN lock is second only to the password lock as the most secure for your Android tablet. To access the tablet, you must type a PIN, or personal identification number. This type of screen lock is also employed as a backup for less secure screen-unlocking methods, such as the pattern lock.

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 tablet, navigate to the Select Screen Lock screen. Choose PIN from the list of locks.

Use the onscreen keypad to type your PIN once and tap the Continue button. Type the same PIN again to confirm that you know it. Tap OK. The next time you unlock the tablet, you need to type the PIN to gain access.

Assigning a password

The most secure way to lock an Android tablet is to apply a full-on password. Unlike a PIN, a password can contain numbers, symbols, and both upper- and lowercase letters.

Set a password by choosing Password from the Select Screen Lock screen. The password you select must be at least four characters long. Longer passwords are more secure.

You’re prompted to type the password whenever you unlock your Android tablet or whenever you try to change the screen lock. Tap the OK button to accept the password you’ve typed.

Creating an unlock pattern

One of the most common ways to lock an Android tablet is to apply an unlock pattern. The pattern must be traced exactly as it was created in order to unlock the device and get access to your apps and the tablet’s other features. To create an unlock pattern, follow along:

  1. Summon the Select Screen Lock screen.

  2. Choose Pattern.

    If you’ve not yet set a pattern lock, you may see a tutorial describing the process; tap the Next button to skip over the dreary directions.

  3. Trace an unlock pattern.

    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. Tap the Continue button.

  5. Redraw the pattern.

    You need to prove to the doubtful tablet that you know the pattern.

  6. Tap the Confirm button.

    Your tablet 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.

    Set the unlock pattern.

    Set the unlock pattern.

To ensure that the pattern appears on the Lock screen, place a check mark by the option Make Pattern Visible. For even more security, you can disable this option, but you must remember how — and where — the pattern goes.

Also: Clean the touchscreen! Smudge marks can betray your pattern.

Setting unusual screen locks

Several tablets offer other screen locks, which can be silly or fancy and perhaps not that secure. Among them are the face unlock, signature lock, and fingerprint lock. Choose these screen locks from the Select Screen Lock window. Work through the setup process. You may also need to set a PIN or password as a backup to the locks, which generally aren’t considered that secure.

  • The face unlock works by using the tablet’s front camera. To unlock the device, you stare at the screen. As long as you haven’t had any recent, major plastic surgery, the tablet unlocks.

  • The signature lock is unique to the Samsung Galaxy Note. Use the S-Pen to scribble your John Hancock on the touchscreen. The tablet unlocks.

  • Tablets equipped with a fingerprint scanner allow you to swipe your favorite digit across a scanner to unlock the device. On the Samsung Galaxy Tab S, the Home button doubles as the fingerprint scanner.