Apple doesn't have an official method for individually locking sensitive apps like Photos with a passcode, but there is a workaround that was introduced with the Screen Time feature that first came out in iOS 12. This article explains how it's done, but if your device is running iOS 16.4 or later, you can use a new Lock Screen action to lock specific apps behind FaceTime or your iPhone's passcode, which is arguably the more secure method.

If you want to make sure one of your apps is inaccessible, you can use Apple's Screen Time App Limits feature to do so. Here's how:

  1. Open up the Settings app.
  2. Choose "Screen Time." app limits 1
  3. Make sure Screen Time is enabled and a Screen Time passcode is set by choosing the "Use Screen Time Passcode" option
  4. Tap on App Limits and Tap on the Add Limit option. app limits 2
  5. Choose the category that you want. If you want to lock the ‌Photos‌ app, it's in the "Creativity" category.
  6. Tap on the app that you've picked and then tap Next.
  7. At the slider where you select the time, choose 1 minute. app limits 3
  8. Tap on Add.
  9. Toggle on "Block at End of Limit."
  10. If you want to add additional apps, go through the "Add Limit" steps again. Otherwise, exit the Screen Time interface.
  11. When the time limit that you've set expires, you'll be told you've run out of time. You can continue to use the app for one minute, but after that, you'll need to enter your Screen Time passcode to continue to use the app.

    There is no way around the passcode, which prevents anyone who has access to your iPhone from opening up and using the app that's been passcode blocked.

    app limits 4

    How to Use a Locked App

    Once you have App Limits in place to lock apps you want to be inaccessible, you can tap on "Ask for More Time" to access the app. You'll need to put in your passcode, and then once you do, you can unlock it for 15 minutes, an hour, or the rest of the day. There's no way to immediately lock it again after approving it for 15 minutes without redoing the entire App Limit setup, so keep that in mind.

    app limits 5

    Limitations

    You can passcode lock any app on your phone except for the Phone app. There is no option to turn off access to the Phone app at all. For apps like Messages or FaceTime, you need to edit the "Always Allowed" section of Screen Time to remove them for the limit to be enabled.

    You can disable access to Messages and ‌FaceTime‌, but you might not want to. When access to Messages is disabled via App Limits, devices using iCloud for Screen Time are not able to send or receive messages during downtime. You're also not able to see notifications for apps that are locked, so keep that in mind when locking down social networking apps.

Top Rated Comments

drinkingtea Avatar
70 months ago
Nice. But Apple can simplify this process by giving us the ability to officially lock our apps.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Doctor Q Avatar
70 months ago
Don't forget your Screen Time passcode, which is not the same as your Lock Screen passcode.

It's pretty hard to recover from a lost Screen Time passcode, so add it to your password manager. You DO have a password manager, right?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sterlingindigo Avatar
70 months ago
Good, I’ll use this next time I go to apple store and the employees ask me to unlock my device before working on my phone.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jsmith189 Avatar
70 months ago
I mean that makes sense, but we can play the what if game all day long with 58385 scenarios. Other than photos, I don't see why you would need apps protected?
Photos aside... not wanting people to be able to access your Messages. Not wanting people to have access to your dating apps. Not wanting people to be able to post from your social media pages. Not wanting people to mess with HomeKit stuff (lights, locks, alarms, garage doors etc). Not wanting people to go through your browsing history. Extra protection for banking apps (most/all of which already have a layer of security, but another layer would be more comforting). Having extra security on private things if your phone was stolen unlocked. There are countless ways this would be useful for people.

I understand a phone lock would solve a lot of these, but that's not always possible - especially in the case of children using their parents' phone/s throughout the day. This seems like such a simple task for them, I don't understand why they wouldn't just make it an option.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gudi Avatar
70 months ago
Doesn’t work for me. You still have to use every time limited app for at least one minute every day before it is locked for the rest of the day. After three days this gets super annoying.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Ballis Avatar
70 months ago
To much of a hack. Apple should simplify
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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