If you've handed out Android phones for work, or you have a need to add a layer of privacy to your Android chat applications, there are plenty of ways you can accomplish this. One way is to install app lockers specifically for chat apps and other social networking tools. Two such apps I have found are Chat App Lock and Messenger and Chat Lock. Each of these applications will help you lock down those apps and services you do not want just everyone to gain access to. The only caveat? If users get the pass code, they'll get through the app. Even still, it's a quick (and free) way to prevent users from accessing the likes of:
- Hangouts (Messenger and Chat Lock/Chat App Lock)
- Messaging (Messenger and Chat Lock/Chat App Lock)
- Facebook (Messenger and Chat Lock)
- Gallery (Messenger and Chat Lock)
- Gmail (Messenger and Chat Lock)
- Google+ (Messenger and Chat Lock)
Both apps also offer other features:
- Prevent force stop (Chat App Lock)
- Protect Settings (Messenger and Chat Lock)
- Protect uninstallation from Google Account (Messenger and Chat Lock)
- Allow appearance on status bar (Chat App Lock)
- Hide lock icon (Chat App Lock)
- Random password panel (Chat App Lock)
Messenger and Chat Lock does have ads that appear at the bottom of the app and Chat App Lock has a cleaner interface. With that said, let's take a look at how to install and set up these two apps.
Chat App Lock
The installation of both apps is the same, so I'll only demonstrate on this particular app. To install Chat App Lock, do the following:
- Open the Google Play Store on the Android device
- Search for Chat App Lock
- Locate and tap the entry by Xtension-dev
- Tap Install
- Read the permissions listing
- If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
You should now see an icon on the home screen or in the app drawer (or both). Tap that launcher to fire up the application.
Upon first usage, you'll have to set the password to be used to gain access to the "forbidden" apps. Enter the four-digit numerical password (Figure A) and confirm.
Chat Lock running on a Verizon-branded LG G3.
When you've confirmed your password, you must set a security question and answer. Save that, and you'll find yourself on the Chat App Lock main window (Figure B).
The Chat App Lock main window.
Here you can tap an app entry to switch protection on. In this same window, you can turn on uninstallation prevention and force stop prevention (I highly recommend both).
You can also switch from a password/PIN to a pattern. To do that, tap the Chat Lock button in the top left corner, and then tap Lock Setting. In this new window (Figure C), you can change from the standard PIN to a pattern by tapping the Pattern unlock button, then drawing (and confirming) the pattern to be used.
If you want to hide the Chat App Lock icon, do the following:
- From the main window, tap the Chat Lock button in the upper left corner
- Tap Setting
- Tap to enable Hide lock icon
To get the lock icon back, you're supposed to dial *#*#12345#*#* — however, I was unable to get that to work. I wound up having to uninstall/reinstall the app (so hide the icon with caution, and only after you've set the app up the way you want it).
Messenger and Chat Lock
This app is very similar to the former. Once it's installed, you'll have to set up your password and confirm. You do not set up a security question in the initial run (this is done after the fact in the settings). After you've setup your password, you can then protect the supported apps from the main window (Figure C).
The Messenger and Chat Lock main window.
Tap to lock each app down. A red lock icon will appear when the app is locked (and the slider will clearly say On). When that's complete, tap the menu button (three vertical dots in the upper right corner). In the settings window (Figure D), you can set up the extra features (Prevent Uninstallation, Protect Settings, etc.).
Messenger and Chat Lock settings are ready to protect.
I recommend enabling the Prevent Uninstallation and Protect Settings. Otherwise, anyone could open the app and unset the locks.
If you're looking for a convenient method of locking down chat/messaging on your Android device, these two apps do a good job. Just make sure to not forget your password and to not give it out to anyone (thereby defeating the purpose of the app).
There are plenty of ways to secure your Android phone. How do you manage the task of securing your Android device? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.