Warning: Stop Buying iOS Apps That Claim to Lock Other Apps

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No iPhone or iPad app available on the App Store is capable of locking other apps. This is a system level limitation in iOS. Unlike Android, where apps can access core data like file system and system level data, no such thing on iOS is possible.

Every app on iOS runs in its own environment, its own silo. One app can’t access data from another app, can’t receive or send data directly (exception: Extensions) and certainly can’t put up barriers. It’s something iOS just won’t allow you to do.

Did you catch all of that? Good. So now stop buying iOS apps that coyly promise to give you this functionality, almost implying the fact without expressly saying it. It’s a con job and apparently they’re not crossing a line when it comes to Apple’s review guidelines.

The Perpetrators

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The premise for this article stems from the current top paid app on the Indian App Store. It’s an app called Passcode for WhatsApp ($0.99). Sounds like an app that will password protect WhatsApp, doesn’t it? The screenshots in the descriptions that copy the WhatsApp UI don’t help.

Only in the last line of the second paragraph do they mention – “This is a standalone app and cannot add a passcode nor control any third party apps.” Splendid.

The truth is, no one reads the app descriptions. Only tech writers do. And if I’m being completely honest, not all of it.

As evidence I present the user reviews.

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As Saajith1111 says “It dsnt password protect your Whatsapp… Instead it opens a new app and no good…”

What the app does is let you share conversations (one by one) to a “private” email address (no mention of security details) and then imports the conversation in the app, which itself is password protected.

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Data Lockers Are Legit

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While an app can’t lock other apps, it can lock content stored in the app itself. So if you see data lockers for iPhone and iPad, feel free to use them. Even Dropbox comes with passcode protection support.

The Victims

It’s important to read the reviews and the description before buying an app. The iOS App Store does a good job of keeping spammy and threatening apps away, but things like these do seep in.

Loophole: I should also mention that if you’re jailbroken, you can get app locking functionality using some jailbreak tweaks.

The Moral

iOS is a closed system. One app can’t protect data from other apps. But an app can add a passcode lock for its own data. So don’t buy apps that imply that they’ll help you protect, clean, or monitor data from other apps on iOS.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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