How to Secure Your Android Phone with a PIN, Password, or Pattern

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The lock screen is an important feature in Android, and keeping it secure is important for all Android users. It’s actually gotten easier with Lollipop and above, as many of the customization features have either been removed or placed elsewhere.

For example, lock screen widgets have given up the ghost, and Face Unlock is now a Smart Lock setting called “Trusted Face.” That makes the lock screen security menu a breeze to navigate.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get into the Settings menu. You can do this by either pulling down the notification shade and selecting the cog icon (stock Android devices require the shade to be pulled twice before the settings icon will show up), or just tapping the Settings icon in the app drawer.

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Once in the Settings menu, scroll down to the “Personal” section and tap the “Security” entry.

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The first option in this menu should be “Screen lock,” which is the one we’re looking for here. Go ahead and give that a tap.

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This will present a handful of options:

  • None: No lock screen security at all.
  • Swipe: Not really secure at all, this option unlocks the device just by swiping on the lock screen.
  • Pattern: Unlocks the device by using a specific swipe pattern along a series of nine dots.
  • PIN: Personal Identification Number. You know, like the one you have for your debit card. But don’t use the same one, please.
  • Password: Not your Google password, mind you, but one specific to the lock screen. This is the most cumbersome way to unlock your device.

Tap the one you want to use and go through the prompts to set it up.

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Which one you choose is up to you—each one has its pros and cons. For example, Pattern and PIN options can easily be found by checking the finger smudges or streaks on the display (unless you’re a serial screen cleaner), where a password is much more difficult to visually crack. On the other hand, a PIN is theoretically more robust than a password, unless you’re using a jumble of letters and numbers for said password. Really, it’s a crapshoot—but any security is better than no security.


Setting up a secured lock screen is an annoying necessity to most users, because it takes longer to unlock your device. Fortunately, newer versions of Android have “Smart Lock,” which makes much easier work of unlocking your device when you’re at home, in the car, or anywhere else when you can be sure that it’s actually you doing the unlocking.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.