How to use Screen Pinning in Android 5.0 (and why you might want to)

Nexus 6 carrier pre-orders start this week and many existing Android phones will be receiving the Lollipop software upgrade¬†in the near future, so now might be a good time to spotlight one of the new functions in Android 5.0. It’s called Screen Pinning and it does exactly what it sounds like: It locks or pins the screen to a particular app.

Before explaining how to use Screen Pinning, it probably makes to understand when it would be useful. The most obvious scenario is when you hand your phone over to someone.

screen pinning instructions

You know, when a friend says, “My phone battery just died, can I use your phone to make a call?” or something else along those lines. Another great example is when your kids borrow the phone to play a game. In either of these cases, Screen Pinning keeps people locked into the app you specifically set, meaning, they can’t wander around your apps and data. I’ve even used Screen Pinning on the Nexus 6 when reading an ebook; that way, I don’t accidentally hit a button inadvertently that knocks me into my home screen or the app switcher.

Using Screen Pinning is pretty easy. You first have to enable the feature, which is found in the [company]Google[/company] Android 5.0 settings under Security. Then just open the app you want to pin and tap the Overview button in Android; it’s the square to the right of the round Home button and it shows all of your open apps as cards in a carousel. The most recently¬†used app will appear first here and it will show an icon with pushpin. Tap the icon and you’ve just locked the phone to use only the current app.

screen pinning prompt
If you have any type of security lock on your Android 5.0 phone — which is highly recommended — you’ll need it to un-pin the app and regain full use of the handset. First, press the Android back and Overview buttons simultaneously to start the process. Unlock your phone with the PIN, swipe or whichever lock method you use and your phone will be back to normal with full app access.

Photos by Kevin C. Tofel/Gigaom