Phones are private, full of personal data and messages. Guided Access allows you to share your iPhone with someone without being able to access that data–allowing them to look at photos, place a phone call, or play a game while your stuff stays hidden.
Guided Access is ideal for situations where you want to show photos to friends or family, allow someone to place a phone call, or let a kid play a game. Whoever you share your phone with won’t be able to access anything sensitive. You can even lock down features within specific apps. This works on iPads, too.
How to Enable Guided Access
This requires the Guided Access feature, which isn’t enabled by default. We’ve covered Guided Access as a parental control to lock down your iPhone or iPad for children, but Guided Access can be used for much more than that. It’s a way of temporarily restricting your device to a single app–and then restricting what can be done in that app. You’ll need a PIN or your fingerprint to leave Guided Access mode.
To enable Guided Access, launch the “Settings” app and head to General > Accessibility. Scroll down and tap “Guided Access” under Learning.
Activate the “Guided Access” slider here and then tap “Passcode Settings” to set a passcode. You can enter the same PIN you use to unlock your iPhone, or set a different PIN–it’s up to you.
On iPhones with a Touch ID sensor, you can enable the “Touch ID” option here. You’ll be able to exit Guided Access mode with just your fingerprint, so you won’t have to type the longer passcode.
Restrict the Phone to a Single App and Disable Notifications
Now, you just need to place your iPhone into Guided Access mode before handing it to someone else. Not only will your iPhone be restricted to only the app you choose, but it won’t display incoming notifications or provide access to the notification center while Guided Access mode is enabled. Any incoming messages you receive will be kept private and for your eyes only.
To enable Guided Access mode, open the app you want to use–for example, the Photos app, the Phone app, or a game. Quickly press the “Home” button three times in a row. The Guided Access screen will appear. Tap “Start” in the top-right corner to enter Guided Access mode.
Your phone will now be restricted to the single app you chose, and it won’t display any notifications. You can hand the phone to other people, knowing they won’t accidentally see private notifications and ensuring a child playing a game won’t go through your emails and other personal information.
To leave Guided Access mode, press the “Home” button three times in a row and enter your PIN. If you enabled Touch ID for this, you can press the Home button once and leave your finger on the sensor. Your iPhone will automatically leave Guided Access mode if it recognizes your fingerprint.
Disable the Entire Touch Screen
The above method just restricts the phone to a specific application, but sometimes that isn’t good enough. For example, you might want to show people a specific photo in the Photos app without them swiping through your other, potentially private photos.
To prevent this from happening, first launch the Photos app and find the one photo you want to show off. Press the “Home” button three times in a row to enable Guided Access mode. Tap the “Options” button at the bottom-left corner of the Guided Access screen and disable the “Touch” option. Tap “Start” or “Resume” at the top-right corner of the screen when you’re done.
You can now hand your phone to someone and they can look at the image on the screen–or watch a video, if a video is playing. However, they won’t be able to interact with the phone until you leave Guided Access mode. The entire touch screen will be disabled until you enter your PIN or use your fingerprint.
Disable Specific Areas of the Touch Screen
In other cases, you may just want to disable individual areas of your screen. For example, perhaps you want to share your phone with someone who wants to make a phone call. The Phone app doesn’t just include a number pad for dialing a phone number–it includes your contacts list, recent calls, and your voicemails.
To restrict access to this private data, launch the Phone app and head to the dialer screen. Press the “Home” button three times to enable Guided Access mode. Use your finger to draw circles around areas of the app you don’t want anyone interacting with. For example, in the Phone app, you could block off the bottom navigation bar. The person who you share your phone with could now just use the dial pad in the middle of the screen to place a phone call. They won’t be able to snoop around using the bottom navigation bar.
When you exit Guided Access, the restriction will be removed and you can interact with the entire screen again.
Guided Access is usually thought of as a parental control feature, but it’s so much more than that. It’s all in the name–rather than providing someone with unrestricted access to your iPhone or iPad, you can control exactly what they can do on your device.