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How to use Android’s lockdown mode and why you should

Woman texting on Android phone

Getty / Uwe Krejci

Google is always looking to make the Android platform more secure. Way back in 2018 (with Android still enjoying tasty treat nicknames, such as Pie), the developers introduced what’s called lockdown mode. Essentially, lockdown mode protects those who prefer to keep their private information from unwanted eyes. 

When lockdown mode is enabled, fingerprint sensors, facial recognition, and voice recognition do not function. Once you’ve activated lockdown mode, the only way to gain access to your device is either via PIN, Password, or Pattern. 

This feature was added because biometric authentication can easily be circumvented. How many times have you seen this scenario on television? A bad actor gets their hands on a victim’s phone and uses their fingerprint or face to unlock their device (even with the victim out cold). Had that person enabled lockdown mode, that malicious ne’er-do-well wouldn’t have such an easy time breaking into their device.

Of course, I hope you never find yourself in such a situation, but should that occur, at least you know there’s a way to protect your data.

Let’s find out how to enable lockdown mode. I’ll be demonstrating it on Android 12, but the feature should work all the way back to version 9 of the OS.

The caveat to lockdown mode

One thing you must know about lockdown mode is that it’s a one-time thing. In other words, once you’ve enabled it, it will immediately be disabled upon successful login. That means you have to re-enable lockdown mode every time you want to use it. The way I look at this feature is that any time I think I might be venturing into an untrustworthy situation (which, truth be told, rarely happens for me), I enable it before moving ahead with my plan.

With that said, let’s enable lockdown mode.

Enabling lockdown mode on Android

Enabling lockdown on older versions

Once upon a time, you first had to enable lockdown mode. If you happen to be using Android 9 or 10, you might have to take these steps first. 

To enable lockdown mode on the older iterations of Android, do the following:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Security & location
  3. Go to Lock screen preferences
  4. Tap to enable Show lockdown option

For newer releases of Android 11+, lockdown mode is enabled by default.

Using lockdown mode

Now that you’ve enabled lockdown mode (if necessary), it’s time to use it.

1. Open the Power Menu

Press and hold the power button on your phone to reveal the Power Menu (Figure 1).

The Androd 12 Power Menu.

Figure 1: The Power Menu on Android 12 gives you quick access to lockdown mode.

Image: Jack Wallen

2. Enable lockdown

Tap the Lockdown button, and lockdown mode is enabled. You will be immediately sent back to the lock screen. If you try to use either the fingerprint sensor or facial unlock, they’ll both fail. In fact, on a Pixel 6 Pro (or any device with a fingerprint scanner), you won’t even see the fingerprint scanner icon on the display. 

The only way for you to access your device is by way of your PIN, Pattern, or Password. Unlock your device, and lockdown mode is disabled. 

And that’s all there is to using lockdown mode. If you ever believe you might be venturing into an environment where you either won’t feel 100%, or you’re unsure if you can trust those you’ll be around, I highly recommend enabling lockdown mode before you do find yourself in such a situation.


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