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Configuring the Lock Screen

The lock screen is the screen that appears when you start your device or when you wake your device after sleep. You can choose different lock strengths or even turn off locking altogether; you can also configure the Smart Lock feature to allow you to easily unlock your device. You can display your owner information (or other information) on the lock screen to help someone who finds your device return it to you.

Choosing the Best Locking Method

To keep your data safe, lock your device. Android offers four ways to unlock the screen, but only two are worth using if your device contains any personal or sensitive information, as almost all devices do. These are the four unlock methods:

  • Swipe. You tap the lock icon on the lock screen and swipe your finger across the screen to unlock your device. Swipe provides no security at all, but it does prevent your device from becoming unlocked by accident in your pocket or bag.

  • Pattern. You draw a pattern on a nine-dot grid on the screen to unlock your device. A pattern is useful only for light security. You can draw a complex pattern to make this harder for a determined attacker to break, but the result may be more difficult for you to use than a PIN or password.

  • PIN. You type in a numeric personal identification number (PIN) and tap the Enter button to unlock your device. PIN is a good choice for medium security. The PIN must be at least four digits long (giving 10,000 possible combinations), but it is sensible to use eight digits (10,000,000 combinations) or more.

  • Password. You type in a password using any characters—letters, numbers, or symbols—but containing at least one letter. Password is the only choice for serious security on your device. Android requires the password to be at least four characters long, but you should consider eight characters a minimum to secure your device effectively. The longer the password, the harder it is for an attacker to break by brute force.

Setting Up Locking on Your Device

Here’s how to set up locking on your device:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Tap the Security button in the Personal section to display the Security screen.

  3. Tap the Screen Lock button in the Screen Security section to display the Choose Screen Lock screen. If you have already applied a lock, you will need to use the unlocking method to proceed. For example, type your PIN and tap the Next button or the right-arrow button.

  4. Tap the unlock method you want to use, and then follow through any screens that appear. For example, if you tap the Password button, you must type a password and then confirm it.

  5. Back on the Security screen, tap the Automatically Lock button to display the Automatically Lock dialog box, and then tap the button for the delay between the device going to sleep and the screen locking. The best choice is Immediately, but you may want to have a short delay, such as 5 Seconds or 15 Seconds, if you find yourself needing to wake your device soon after you put it to sleep.

  6. Also on the Security screen, set the Power Button Instantly Locks switch to On so that you can lock your device quickly by pressing the Power button.

Locking is now set up. To try it, press the Power button once to lock your device, press the Power button again to wake it, and then use the unlock method to unlock the device.

Setting Up Smart Lock

Android’s Smart Lock feature allows you to set up other ways of unlocking your device than your pattern, PIN, password, or fingerprint. As of this writing, Smart Lock offers five smart ways to keep your device unlocked or unlock it automatically:

  • Trusted Devices. You can specify one or more trusted devices whose presence allows your device to remain unlocked. Trusted devices use either NFC or Bluetooth. For example, if you wear a Bluetooth-capable watch, you can use that as a trusted device.

  • Trusted Places. You can specify one or more trusted places—map locations—in which your device remains unlocked. For example, you can set up your home as a trusted place.

  • Trusted Face. You can set up your device to unlock when its screenside camera detects you gazing lovingly at it.

  • Trusted Voice. You can set up your device to unlock when it hears a voice that matches the voice model you set up.

  • On-Body Detection. You can set up your device to remain unlocked while it detects you are holding it or carrying it.

Setting up Smart Lock is straightforward. Choose Settings, Security, Smart Lock to display the Smart Lock screen. (See the left screen in Figure 3.8.) You’ll need to enter your password, PIN, or pattern to prove you’re you.


FIGURE 3.8 On the Smart Lock screen (left), tap the Smart Lock method you want to set up. Then use the screen that appears, such as the Trusted Devices screen (right), to configure the Smart Lock method.

Next, tap the button for the Smart Lock method you want to set up, and follow the prompts on the screens that appear. Here are brief notes on the Smart Lock methods:

  • Trusted Devices. On the Trusted Devices screen (see the right screen in Figure 3.8), tap the Add Trusted Device button. On the Choose Device Type screen, tap the Bluetooth button or the NFC button, as appropriate. For Bluetooth, you then select the device on the Choose Device screen. For NFC, you bring the NFC tag or device to within striking distance of the NFC chip in your Android device. Usually, you’ll hear a bleep when the NFC chips connect.

  • Trusted Places. On the Trusted Places screen, tap the place if it already appears. Otherwise, tap the Add Trusted Place button and then use the Pick a Place screen to select the place; Android suggests your current location, but you can move the location as needed.

  • Trusted Face. On the Add a Trusted Face screen (in Marshmallow) or the About Trusted Face screen (in Lollipop), read the warnings and then tap the Set Up button. On the next screen, which is called Add a Trusted Face in both Marshmallow and Lollipop, tap the Next button, and then position your face in the dotted frame onscreen and wait while Android recognizes it.

  • Trusted Voice. On the Settings screen that appears, set the Always On switch (on Marshmallow) or the From Any Screen switch (on Lollipop) to On if it is set to Off. You can then set the Trusted Voice switch to On; you’ll need to enter your pattern, password, or PIN, too.

  • On-Body Detection. On the On-Body Detection screen, set the switch to On, and then tap the Continue button in the Keep in Mind dialog box that opens and warns you that someone else might be able to grab your device from you without causing automatic locking to take place.

Putting a Message or Owner Information on the Lock Screen

You can display a message or your owner information on the lock screen. This works a little differently in Marshmallow than in Lollipop:

  • Marshmallow. Choose Settings, Security, Lock Screen Message to open the Lock Screen Message dialog box. Type the message you want to display, tapping the Enter key as needed to create new lines, and then tap the Save button.

  • Lollipop. Choose Settings, Security, Owner Info to display the Owner Info screen. Check the Show Owner Info on Lock Screen box, and then type the text you want to display.

Unlocking Your Device with Your Fingerprint

If your device has a fingerprint scanner, you can set up one of more of your fingertips as an easy way of unlocking your device.

On those Google Nexus models that have fingerprint scanners, such as the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X, the fingerprint-unlock feature is called Nexus Imprint. To set it up, choose Settings, Security, Nexus Imprint; enter your PIN, pattern, or password to authenticate yourself; and then tap the Add Fingerprint button on the Nexus Imprint screen to start the process of adding a fingerprint. When you reach the Fingerprint Added screen, you can tap the Add Another button to add another finger.

The Nexus Imprint assigns the first fingerprint the default name Finger 1. When you finish adding fingerprints and return to the Nexus Imprint screen, you can tap a Finger button to open a dialog box that enables you to either add a more useful name (such as Right Index Finger) or delete the fingerprint.

Other manufacturers give different names to the fingerprint-unlocking feature on their devices and put them in different areas of the Settings app, so you may need to search for them. For example, on Samsung devices that have fingerprint readers, such as the Galaxy Note 5, choose Settings, Lock Screen and Security, Fingerprints to display the Fingerprints screen, and then tap the Add Fingerprint button.

Configuring Lock-Screen Notifications

Android enables you to choose whether to display notifications on the lock screen. Displaying notifications on the lock screen can be a time-saver, but it also risks exposing notifications to people you’d rather didn’t see them. So Android gives you another choice: You can display notifications but hide any content that might be sensitive.

To configure lock-screen notifications, choose Settings, Sound & Notification. On the Sound & Notification screen, tap the When Device Is Locked button, and then tap the appropriate option in the pop-up menu: Show All Notification Content, Hide Sensitive Notification Content, or Don’t Show Notifications at All.

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