This post is a follow up to my original post on how you can configure your iPad (or iPhone) to lock the user into a single application. This can be extremely useful if your iPad is used in a public area of your office, or as a kiosk display at a trade show. My previous post used the “Guided Access” feature that is built-in to iOS 7+ and doesn’t require any additional software or configuration tools other than the iPad itself. If you’re looking for the quick and easy path, then please go read my older post on Guided Access.
I wrote this follow-up to answer a few specific comments from my original post:
Is there a way to turn off the “Guided Access is enabled” message when the user taps the home or power button?
In Guided Access mode a user can “triple-tap” the home button and see a prompt to enter a passcode/pin that would let them exit Guided Access mode. In theory, a persistent user could try to repeatedly guess your device passcode and potentially exit Guided Access mode. They could also leave the device with the passcode screen showing, which completely obscures your app window, and does not look good if you have your iPad setup as a kiosk or marketing display.
If the iPad turns off, can it boot up in “locked” mode with my app showing again?
In Guided Access mode, the user can press-and-hold the home and lock buttons and restart your device. When the device restarts it will boot up to the home screen, and NOT your app.
App Lock (Single App Mode) to the Rescue
The good news is that we can rectify the two issues above! In iOS version 9, Apple introduced “Supervised Mode” which enables a feature called “Single App Mode” on your iOS device. Single App Mode is a feature for supervised devices that restricts the device to running only one app. While Single App Mode is enabled the selected app will stay in the foreground, even after the device is rebooted.
Enabling Single App Mode first requires you to put your device into Supervised Mode, which takes some effort, but it’s possible (and free) to accomplish with some specialized software.
Step 1 – Enable Supervised Mode
The first step is to enable Supervised Mode for your device.
WARNING! THIS WILL ERASE YOUR DEVICE
I highly recommend using a device other than your personal device! For example, we have an iPad in our office that is used as a kiosk display, so I used that device to perform the steps in this article.
- Download and install Apple Configurator 2 from the Mac App Store
- Plug-in your device via the USB / Lightning connector to your machine
- Open Apple Configurator 2
- Click on your device
- Click on the “Prepare” button
- Choose “Manual” configuration
- Choose “Do not enroll in MDM server”
- Check “Supervise devices”
- Organization: New organization (and fill out the fields)
- Setup Assistant: Show all steps
- Click “Prepare” to start the process WARNING! THIS WILL ERASE YOUR DEVICE
- If you get a message saying that your device has already been prepared, just click the “Restore” button to erase and prepare the device again
- Grab a cup of coffee, the prepare process can take 5-10 minutes or more (leave it plugged in the entire time)
- Your device should restart to the “Hello” Setup screen, with a little message at the bottom with something like “This iPhone is managed by [YOUR NAME]”
- Run through all the standard setup screens for language, WiFi, etc until you get to the standard home screen. (I chose to “set up as new iPhone” and skipped the Apple ID prompts as well)
Step 2 – Start Single App Mode
- Back in Apple Configuration 2, you should see your device listed in the “Supervised” list now
- Right-click your device and choose “Advanced -> Start Single App Mode…”
- After a few moments, you should see a window with a list of apps that are installed on the device
- Choose an app (I chose the super-exicting calculator app) and click the “Select App” button
- After a few moments you should see the selected app launched on your device. Congratulations, you have achieved Single App Mode!
You’ll notice the device’s Home button is disabled, but the lock, volume, and ringer buttons are still enabled!
Well, it turns out that Apple Configurator is a bit limited in what it can configure. In order to gain access to the more advanced configuration settings, you’ll actually need to use some kind of MDM (mobile device management) tool.
Step 3 – Add an MDM tool (optional)
SimpleMDM is a good free option for up to 5 devices, and will unlock the configuration features to enable/disable specific buttons, and a whole bunch of other advanced controls as well. Another good free option (although a bit more complicated) is Meraki from Cisco.
Setting up and configuring an MDM tool is beyond the scope of this article, but SimpleMDM was quite easy to use and I’d recommend starting there if MDM tools are new to you.
Any good MDM tool will be able to unlock controls for things like:
- Enable/disable screen touch actions
- Enable/disable device rotation
- Enable/disable volume buttons
- Enable/disable ringer switch
- Enable/disable sleep/wake buton
- Enable/disable auto lock
- Enable/disable voice over
- Enable/disable zoom
- Enable/disable inverted colors
- Enable/disable assistive touch adjustments
- Block/allow iMessages
- Block/allow AirDrop
- Block/allow AirPlay
- Block/allow device name changes
- Block/allow passcode modifications
- and a whole lot more…