There are many reasons to use kiosk mode — everything from self-ordering to digital signage, mobile point-of-sale, and more are ideal situations for kiosks. Using a platform like Android, you can enable kiosk mode to lock down kiosks to stop end users from exiting the kiosk app or accessing the device settings. 

What is kiosk mode?

Kiosk Mode locks down a device to a single app, preventing other uses. The simplest (but least secure) way to do this is by using a very basic Android feature called app pinning. App pinning does exactly what the name suggests: it pins a single app to the screen. This app can even be locked to the screen behind the PIN, pattern, or password that secures the device, preventing users from bypassing it. 

But app pinning isn’t designed to be used in a dedicated device setting. If you’re a business owner with a single tablet used as a POS terminal, then perhaps app pinning might be enough. But if you have multiple devices or need additional functionality (including enhanced security), you need a dedicated kiosk mode provider like an MDM (mobile device management). MDM software provides basic security and management tools for kiosk devices (and more). 

Kiosk mode offered by an MDM prevents users from running anything the device owner does not enable. On Android, this can block user access to:

  • Apps and app installation (from an official app store like Google Play, as well as “sideloaded” apps)
  • Device settings
  • Device hardware (camera, Bluetooth, local storage, etc.)

Android devices that are locked to kiosk mode may use peripheral devices (like secondary displays, printers, keyboards, or barcode scanners) to create a self-serve user experience. An Android tablet locked to a mobile point-of-sale (mPoS) application may be connected to a credit card reader and thermal printer. 

Common examples of enterprise dedicated devices that operate in Android kiosk mode include:

  • Touchscreens for ordering menu items at restaurants
  • Employee point of sale systems at retail stores
  • Ticketing and baggage tag kiosks at airports
  • Interactive seating charts used by front-of-house host staff at restaurants
  • Store directories and maps at large shopping centers
  • Self-serve payment kiosks for purchasing products or services
Source: Zephyr_p/Shutterstock.com

Can I use Android kiosk mode without MDM? 

You can use Android’s native screen pinning feature without MDM, yes. But for a true, configurable kiosk mode, you’ll need a kiosk software provider or MDM. Kiosk mode providers offer much more robust kiosk mode options, which allow you to fully lock the device to kiosk mode apps, disable the screen timeout, block access to settings, and more. This is more secure and virtually eliminates the possibility of tampering.

What settings do Android kiosk mode providers generally offer?

Specific configurations can vary, but almost every Android kiosk mode limits user access to apps, status bar, and device settings. If single app kiosk mode is enabled, the user will be limited to running one app at all times. If multi-app kiosk mode is enabled, they will be able to run apps only from a specific selection chosen by the device owner.

When kiosk mode is enabled on Android, there are three things you want to know: the display’s sleep mode can be disabled, apps will be forced into full screen mode (regardless of whether it’s a single app or in multi-app mode), and kiosk mode will launch every time the device powers on. While you can work to make sure this all happens manually, proper kiosk mode software makes this step automatic.

In kiosk mode, by default users can’t exit any kiosk mode apps, modify settings, view any stored data on the device, or make or receive phone calls or send text messages. On devices running Android 8.0 or below, kiosk mode always blocks the status bar and notifications, but Android versions 9.0 and above allow selective enabling of the status bar in kiosk mode. Many customers want status bar visibility in kiosk mode to view battery percentage and Wi-Fi connection status without exiting kiosk mode, for example.

App pinning vs Kiosk mode

App pinningKiosk mode
Lock kiosk apps
Block settings access
Block access to device info
Block status bar notifications
Block Incoming/Outgoing calls
Block SMS/MMS (text/picture)  messaging access
Disable device sleep 
Pin apps to full screen mode
Auto-load kiosk apps at startup

App pinning is a very simple solution, which makes it appealing — it’s free, included in Android, and easy to use. What’s not to love about that? For the most basic of situations,it’s a great fit. But as soon as you try to scale app pinning as a “solution,” you’ll start to see how quickly it falls apart. 

Pros of app pinning

  • Simple to set up
  • Available on all Android devices
  • Free

Cons of app pinning

  • Every device must be managed individually and in person
  • Can’t be monitored, controlled, or updated remotely
  • Poor security

Basically, if you want to use a single tablet to do something simple like show a restaurant menu, then Android’s app pining might be a good solution. But if you want to lock multiple devices to a single app, you need something more powerful. That’s where a true kiosk mode provider comes into play. 

Pros of kiosk mode

  • Robust security options to lock down and track devices
  • Remotely configure and control all devices
  • Customization of device experience and branding
  • Dedicated support and web console management from the kiosk mode provider

Cons of kiosk mode

  • Not suited for individuals (i.e., you need multiple devices)
  • Not free

As you can see, there’s a clear advantage to using a dedicated kiosk mode provider over something as simplistic as app pinning.

The best way to lock down devices with kiosk mode

If simple app pinning isn’t good enough for your use cases, you need a hardened kiosk solution. Esper offers a full stack software solution for kiosks and more, allowing you to fully lock down your devices in a way that’s virtually impossible to bypass. Click below to learn more about how we can supercharge your kiosk solution.

FAQ

What does kiosk mode do? 

Kiosk mode locks a device to a single application or a selected list of applications while preventing other uses or tampering. 

Does Android have a built-in kiosk mode? 

Yes. Android app pinning can provide a very limited Android kiosk mode, but without key security and management features.

Can I use Android kiosk mode without MDM?

Screen pinning doesn’t require an MDM. For a more robust and secure kiosk mode, however, you’ll need a kiosk mode provider like an MDM.

How do you pin a screen on Android? 

App pinning needs to be enabled in Settings. After that, you can swipe up to show recent apps, long press on the app, and select Pin. For more information, check out our full guide on how to use app pinning.

Can you run an Android tablet in kiosk mode? 

Yes! Nearly any Android device with a touchscreen can be run in kiosk mode. 

How do I get out of kiosk mode? 

For kiosks using app pinning, simply swipe up and hold (you may also need to enter the PIN, pattern, password, or biometric authentication). For apps placed into kiosk mode using kiosk software, only an administrator can exit kiosk mode.