Your phone isn’t always your own. There’s going to be that time when you hand it to a child so they can watch Peppa Pig for the 787th time, or your spouse wants to show friends vacation trips.
Once it’s unlocked, anything on there is fair game for someone who lets their curiosity get the best of them. But you can make sure that photos, videos, or other files that you’d rather stay private are kept under a digital lock and key. There are several apps that do this, placing a secure folder on your home screen that only you can get to. It’s the easiest way to ensure that certain things you want to be private remain so.
After trying out several options, I landed on three good choices that might help you avoid some embarrassing moments or just give you peace of mind when the family is handing your phone around the table at the next family gathering.
I was particularly impressed with Keepsafe. It’s very simple to set up and use and has a lot of helpful options that let you tweak the app to work the way you want it to.
As you’ll find with all of the apps in this genre, you use a PIN to gain access and provide an email address as a backup for a backup code if you’re locked out. The interface keeps with Material Design, which makes it blend in well with how Android apps are supposed to look.
Once you’ve gotten started, you can then start adding in content into the categories. You can upload files and videos to the different albums, with one devoted to a photos you want to keep private of a significant other (ahem). But these are just suggestions, so you can edit and delete these at any time in case stockpiling photos of your main squeeze isn’t part of the plan.
The app starts you off with a 30-day trial of premium service ($5 monthly), which includes a space saving feature that backs up your data to a “private cloud,” provides trash recovery, and an eliminates of the advertisements. Keepsafe says all the content is end-to-end encrypted and can’t be viewed by the company.
You can also disguise the app with another icon and create a decoy PIN in case you need to fool someone about what the app is really for. Keepsafe will also perform “break in alerts” by logging the time and snapping a photo of a suspicious attempt.
Another solid choice is GalleryVault. The key feature set is pretty similar, though the layout emphasizes a wider variety of content for you to save. The app also offers some clever features to make it a ghost on your home screen, as you can hide the icon and launch GalleryVault by typing in a pin into your dialer, a URL in the browser, or using a couple of other clandestine methods to gain access.
Using the dialer also requires you to grant some additional permissions in Android settings menu, but GalleryVault will walk you through it.
Once you’ve setup your security layer, you can add in images, videos, files, and just about anything else you want to upload. From here it’s pretty self-explanatory in terms of adding content. But as with other apps, keep in mind that uploading something doesn’t eliminate it from where you pulled it from. You’ll need to manually delete any photos you don’t want seen from their original gallery.
The app is free, though it’s ad supported. If you want to remove the ads and get some more features it’ll cost you $4 through an in-app upgrade. What you get is pretty good, however. It includes fingerprint unlock, an ability to close the app by shaking your phone, and a quick photo of the perpetrator if someone tries to break in.
Another choice to consider is Folder Lock. I’d recommend springing for the $4 Premium Pack if you like what you see, as most of the good features are locked behind the paywall. That includes a private cloud, the ability to hide the icon, and a rather clever panic mode that offers a button for quickly switching from one app to another in case you sense someone is looking over your shoulder.
The interface isn’t quite as svelte as the other two options in the list, but the feature set is pretty solid if you’re looking for an app that is very straightforward about how it categorizes your secret content. It also doesn’t require a subscription, a nice difference maker in an era where practically every service out there tries to make do with some type of monthly revenue stream.
A secure Note7
Finally, if you have a Galaxy Note7, a lot of these features are built in through Samsung’s secure folder. You’ll need to sign in with a Samsung account in order to lock the folder and even hide it from appearing on your home screen.
Samsung’s been a little busy dousing flames, but we’d heard some murmurings that this feature may also be coming to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at some point with a software update. It’d be a good idea to grant this feature parity, especially since the S7 phones were released in the same generation as the Note.
Until then, there are some good choices to be had from the Play Store. As always, no measure is completely foolproof, so think extra hard about putting a copy of your passport or other sensitive materials onto your phone.