How to Passcode Lock an App in iOS

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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10,372



Apple doesn't have an official method for individually locking sensitive apps like Photos with a passcode, but luckily there's a workaround that was introduced in iOS 12 with Screen Time.

If you really want to make sure one of your apps is inaccessible, you can use Apple's App Limits feature to do so. Here's how:
  1. Open up the Settings app.
  2. Choose "Screen Time."
  3. Make sure Screen Time is enabled and a Screen Time passcode is set.
  4. Tap on "Devices" in the upper left corner and select your current device. If you don't have multiple devices, just tap on the name of your device at the top.
  5. Choose an app you want to lock and tap it. If the app you want isn't listed, choose any app. It's just a gateway to get to deeper settings.
  6. Tap "Add Limit."
  7. From here, tap "Edit Apps" and add all the other apps that you might want to lock. It gives you a full dropdown of all your apps.
After you've selected all of the apps that you want to be locked, use the timer interface at the top of the display to select a short period of time, like a minute, and then tap "Add."


The new App Limit will effectively lock up your selected apps, and if you attempt to tap on one of these locked apps, you will be required to input your Screen Time passcode.


How to Use a Locked App

Once you have App Limits in place to lock apps you want to be inaccessible, you can tap on "Ask for More Time" to access the app. You'll need to put in your passcode, and then once you do, you can unlock it for 15 minutes, an hour, or the rest of the day. There's no way to immediately lock it again after approving it for 15 minutes without redoing the entire App Limit setup, so keep that in mind.


Limitations

You can passcode lock any app on your phone except for the Phone app. There is no option to turn off access to the Phone app at all. For apps like Messages or FaceTime, you need to edit the "Always Allowed" section of Screen Time to remove them for the limit to be enabled.

You can disable access to Messages and FaceTime, but you might not want to. When access to Messages is disabled via App Limits, devices using iCloud for Screen Time are not able to send or receive messages during downtime. You're also not able to see notifications for apps that are locked, so keep that in mind when locking down social networking apps.

An Alternate Locking Method

If you want to lock up most or all of your apps, you can follow these steps:
  1. Open the Settings app.

    Article Link: How to Passcode Lock an App in iOS
 

SantaFeNM

macrumors member
Oct 13, 2012
49
56
Santa Fe, NM
Can you set it to zero minutes for instant lock, or does it have to have at least one minute? Wasn't sure if there is a downside to zero minutes or if that creates a problem for some reason I haven't thought of? Thanks!
 

davie18

macrumors 6502
Dec 29, 2010
256
281
Nice. But Apple can simplify this process by giving us the ability to officially lock our apps.
Yeah. Especially using Face ID so when you’re using your phone you wouldn’t even notice a difference.
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Good, I’ll use this next time I go to apple store and the employees ask me to unlock my device before working on my phone.
Have they ever unlocked your phone when you weren’t present and watching? That’s never happened with me I assumed they wouldn’t be allowed to do that.
 

sterlingindigo

macrumors 6502
Dec 7, 2007
424
156
East Lansing
Yeah. Especially using Face ID so when you’re using your phone you wouldn’t even notice a difference.
[doublepost=1547856827][/doublepost]
Have they ever unlocked your phone when you weren’t present and watching? That’s never happened with me I assumed they wouldn’t be allowed to do that.
They said they couldn’t work on it unless I unlocked it first. I said I didn’t feel comfortable with that and asked to speak with a manager. They went to the back room for a couple minutes and came back alone saying they could do it but weren’t responsible if it didn’t work right. It worked fine afterwards.
 
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racerhomie

macrumors 6502
Aug 14, 2015
342
618
Don't forget your Screen Time passcode, which is not the same as your Lock Screen passcode.

It's pretty hard to recover from a lost Screen Time passcode, so add it to your password manager. You DO have a password manager, right?
iOS has one builtin.
 
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ignatius345

macrumors 68030
Aug 20, 2015
2,722
3,666
I found screen time buggy. My kid was able to bypass it. Just a heads up.
I think this workaround is more to guard against casual snooping anyway -- the "jealous boyfriend starts poking around girlfriend's phone while she's out of the room" variety. A truly determined and skilled attacker who has lots of time and access to your unlocked phone is probably gonna get what they want eventually.
 
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RickDEGH

macrumors regular
Sep 15, 2018
125
129
Germany
Just a heads up: if you lock the Photos app without locking the camera app, that is still a way to reach your photos.
 

TrulsZK

macrumors regular
May 1, 2018
116
159
Norway
Method 3

Similar to method 2 Instead of locking apps with a 1 min timer, use the Downtime feature and set limit from 00:00-23:59 that way you avoid the 1 min period before apps lock, you do not avoid it completely (but force it between 23:59 and 00:00.

Add apps you do not want to lock to Always Allowed
 

Telos101

macrumors regular
Apr 29, 2016
219
886
Ireland
Presumably this won't prevent my kid from messing up my contacts. If you can still access the phone app then you have indirect access to your contacts list, where they can be edited or deleted just as easily.
 

Gudi

macrumors 68030
May 3, 2013
2,725
1,380
Berlin, Berlin
Doesn’t work for me. You still have to use every time limited app for at least one minute every day before it is locked for the rest of the day. After three days this gets super annoying.
 

RickDEGH

macrumors regular
Sep 15, 2018
125
129
Germany
Doesn’t work for me. You still have to use every time limited app for at least one minute every day before it is locked for the rest of the day. After three days this gets super annoying.
You’re right! I was wondering why after locking my apps they still weren’t working.
 

az431

macrumors 68000
Sep 13, 2008
1,569
4,602
Portland, OR
I can see the benefit of locking individual apps, but this hack adds too much friction.
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Imagine Apple gave consumers the useful features they I want.
Fixed it for you. You don't know what features most people want.
 

TMRJIJ

macrumors 68040
Dec 12, 2011
3,246
5,413
South Carolina, United States
Good, I’ll use this next time I go to apple store and the employees ask me to unlock my device before working on my phone.
What was the issue with your phone and why did they need it unlocked?

Last time I was at the genius bar, they just needed my MBP (mid 2010) logged in because their Diagnostics check wasn’t working. I was still with them while they worked on the issue.
 

davie18

macrumors 6502
Dec 29, 2010
256
281
No, tons of people have been asking for the same features forever and still we don't have them.

They have no problem adding animojis and cringey iMessage apps, though. ;)
I don't know why they spend so much time on imessage.. is it really that big in the US? I'm from the UK and almost nobody uses it here, nor does anyone in asia when I've lived there. Everyone in UK and most of euroipe uses whatsapp.. everyone in Korea uses kakao, everyone in china uses wechat etc etc. I get that imessage might actually get used in the US, but it seems silly in their conferences when they showcase new imessage features when it's basically of interest to only 1 market, especially when they're struggling big time in asia.
[doublepost=1547920781][/doublepost]
Why would you want your apps locked?
Lets say you're at a party and your phone is being used to play music from so others are using it to select music.. you might not want drunk people going through your photos looking at your dick pics
 
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