There are plenty of reasons you might want or need to hide information on your phone from prying eyes. Whether it's sensitive company communications, personal information, or anything in-between, there's always something we don't want others to see. Out of the box, Android offers plenty of features, but one area it misses out on is the ability to lock down certain pieces of your mobile puzzle. That's where applications like Vault-Hide come into play.
Vault-Hide allows you to:
- Password protect applications
- Encrypt photos and videos
- Use a secured camera (Vault Camera)
- Hide call/SMS/contact logs
- Hide Facebook messages
This application offers two versions: free and premium. The paid app, which you can upgrade from the free version, costs $19.99 (USD) and gives you access to additional features, including:
- Break-in attempts: Photographs anyone who enters the wrong password to access your vault
- Vault online: Backs up your files to a secured online vault
- Stealth mode: Hides the existence of Vault-Hide from users
Let's install the free version of Vault-Hide and see how it works.
As with any Android app, the installation of Vault-Hide is very simple. Just follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play Store
- Search for “vault hide” (no quotes)
- Tap the entry for Vault-Hide
- Tap Install
- Tap Accept
That's it. Once the installation is complete, you can launch Vault-Hide from either the application drawer or the home screen.
When you first run Vault-Hide, you have to set up an app entry passcode (Figure A). You'll be prompted to enter and then confirm this code. Make sure to use a strong number sequence, and don't go with the minimum requirement.
Vault-Hide running on a Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy S4.
During the first run process, you'll also be greeted by a welcome screen that gives you the skinny on what Vault-Hide is all about. You can see what the premium version has to offer, but delay making the purchase so you can kick the tires of the free version and make sure it's a product you want to pay for. Finally, Vault-Hide will offer to do a privacy checkup. Once that checkup runs, you can have Vault-Hide optimize your device. Here are some of your options:
- Change message notification style
- Break-in alerts
- Customize message notification text
- Enable Stealth Mode
Be sure to look through this carefully before you decide to okay the optimizations. Many of these optimizations can be handled from within Vault-Hide.
After you set up your passcode (and have walked through the other prompts), you'll find yourself on the main screen (Figure B). From this screen, you can start by running the App Lock.
The Vault-Hide main screen.
Tap the App Lock button to reveal the list of apps you can lock down (Figure C). Tap to select all of the apps you want to lock down, and then tap the Lock button.
The full listing of apps that Vault-Hide can lock down.
Once you tap the Lock button, you'll be prompted (again) to purchase the premium version. Once you tap "No Thanks," you can then select the App Lock Mode. By default, you have access to the Basic App Lock mode. If you have the premium version, you can opt for the Camouflage mode (which hides the fact that Vault-Hide is on the device). With the free version, just stay with the default, and then tap OK. Finally, you'll be prompted to install the Security Plugin. Tap OK to begin the process of installing the final piece.
When you OK the installation of the Security Plugin, you may be warned that your phone is set up to block the installation of apps not obtained from the Google Play Store. If that happens, tap Settings (from the prompt), and then tap Unknown Sources in the Security settings window. Tap OK to finalize that, and then tap the Back button. You should now see a listing of your locked apps (Figure D). If you still see that the Security Plugin is not installed, tap Install on the Locked Apps screen, and then click OK. Finally, tap Install, and then accept to install the Security Plugin.
A listing of your locked apps.
Now, if you attempt to open one of the locked apps, you'll be prompted to enter your Vault-Hide passcode before the app will open.
If you need to hide SMS or Contacts, tap that icon from the main screen, and then tap Hide phone numbers or Hide messages. You'll be able to scroll through a listing of either phone numbers or messages (depending on which one you're attempting to hide) and select those you want to keep from prying eyes. If you want to hide phone numbers, you can select where you want to search for said numbers (contacts, call logs, sms logs, or input a number manually).
As I mentioned earlier, the optimization options are available from within the app itself. To get to those settings, follow these steps:
- Open Vault-Hide
- From the main screen, tap the menu button
- Tap More
- Tap Settings
From within the Settings screen (Figure E), you can then look through all of the options available in the Optimization stage and set them manually. Personally, I think this is a better route than allowing Vault-Hide to take care of all of these options. This way, you get a more customized experience.
Some of these settings are only available with the Premium version.
If you want to securely keep your data from prying eyes, Vault-Hide can't be beat on the Android platform. Give this app a try, and see if it doesn't give you the added layer of security you've been looking for.
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.