How to Lock Android Tablets to Kiosk Mode

Kiosks are generally a mechanism for customers to access self-service information or transactions. Kiosk technologies may run on Android, iOS or Windows operating systems (OS). Kiosks may offer a single app or multiple applications for users.

Android tablets can be converted into secure employee or customer kiosks by locking a device to kiosk mode – an Android configuration state that limits a user experience to one or more apps that are generally pinned to full-screen mode. Android kiosk mode can be applied to virtually any touch-enabled Android device. This gives organizations the flexibility to deploy the right hardware for a given use case.

What is Android Kiosk Mode?

Again, Android Kiosk Mode isn’t the same as an Android Kiosk hardware. Android Kiosk Mode can include multi-app kiosk mode, where users can access a limited number of apps from the device home screen. It can also include single-app kiosk mode,where a single app is pinned to fullscreen mode from the moment a device starts up. 

Kiosk mode configurations define the actions a user can and cannot take on a device. Generally,

Kiosk Users CANNOT

  • Exit kiosk apps
  • Access device settings
  • View device data
  • View status bar or notifications
  • Perform incoming or outgoing voice calling
  • Send or receive SMS (text) messages

And, kiosk mode configurations also include settings to:

  • Avoid device sleep mode during downtime
  • Pin kiosk app(s) to full-screen 
  • Auto-load kiosk apps on device boot

To learn more, we recommend Android Kiosk Mode vs. Kiosk Software: What’s the Difference?

Android Tablet Kiosks vs. Kiosk Machines: Which is Best?

Kiosk hardware generally evokes mental images of large, freestanding touchscreen devices like the Posbank BIGPOS®. Kiosks are generally heavy devices that are ruggedized to withstand near-constant use by members of the public. 

The flexibility of Android kiosk mode means that virtually any touch-enabled Android device can be configured for use as a kiosk. But, for the purpose of simplicity and illustration, we’ll define an Android kiosk as any hardware that’s specifically manufactured for the sole-purpose of being used in Android Kiosk Mode.

So, should you use an Android tablet instead of an Android kiosk? Ultimately, the right hardware for your use case varies depending on industry, foot traffic and predicted usage, the physical setting, mounting requirements, and countless other variables. But, there are certain pros and cons for each approach and device type.

Locking Android Tablets to Kiosk Mode: Pros, Cons & Use Cases

A tablet is generally going to be a better option than a full-sized kiosk in any use case that depends greatly on device portability. 

In addition, an Android tablet may be a better option when it’s used in conjunction with either fixed or flexible mounting in use cases where traditional kiosk hardware is too large or heavy.

Pros of Android Tablets in Kiosk Mode

  • Portability
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible Mounting Options

Cons of Android Tablets in Kiosk Mode

  • Battery Operated, Require Access to Charging

Use Cases

Many benefits of choosing an Android tablet that’s locked to kiosk mode have to do with portability, weight, and size. Even though some Android kiosks are moveable due to wheels, they’re generally significantly heavier than a tablet and it’s rarely practical to rely on employees to push hardware around a storefront all day. 

One common use case involves a mobile point-of-sale or customer ordering device used by retail employees. Tablets locked to kiosk mode can be used throughout a physical storefront to check inventory, place customer orders, or take payments.  

Another increasingly common use case involves student tablets for education. For some school districts and student age groups, providing limited access to a few EdTech apps can be safer than giving students unfettered access to web browser or device settings. Some educators are choosing to lock tablets to multi-app kiosk mode, especially for younger students. 

Kiosk Machine

Kiosk machines are inherently ruggedized. They’re designed to continually perform even when they’re subject to heavy usage by members of the public. They’re built to prevent tampering and they’re virtually impossible to steal.

Android Kiosk hardware is generally the best choice for any use case that involves heavy usage in a single, designated space. 

Pros of Kiosk Machine Hardware

  • Generally Not Battery-Operated
  • May Offer Easier Operability with Peripherals to Accept Payments

Cons of Kiosk Machine Hardware

  • Immovable
  • Bulky 

Use Cases

Kiosk hardware is generally sturdier than Android tablets and more difficult for users to hack or damage. It’s also often the best choice in many use cases where a bigger screen or peripheral devices are preferred. While it’s possible to deploy a tablet with a RFID card reader or other peripherals, full-sized kiosk hardware is generally the only choice for certain types of peripherals. For example, a self-pay kiosk that accepts cash and dispenses change will require large enough kiosk hardware to support a cash drawer.

Quick service restaurants generally opt for kiosk hardware for self-service customer ordering kiosks in the lobby. The larger display size lends itself well to immersive graphic menus, plus full-sized kiosk hardware is a better choice to accept both cash and card payments. 

How to Lock an Android Tablet to Kiosk Mode

Various kiosk softwares and select mobile device management (MDM) solutions provide tools to help IT ops specialists lock Android Tablets to kiosk mode. While kiosk software or an alternative isn’t strictly required to lock a tablet to a kiosk use case, it’s generally recommended and preferable to alternatives.  Savvy users can sometimes unpin an app using various key combinations.  

How to Prevent Tablet Users from Exiting Kiosk Mode

If you’re planning on locking a tablet to kiosk mode, testing is a necessity – especially if you’re planning to create a custom template for provisioning devices. Do multiple tests to ensure users cannot exit from kiosk mode under any circumstances, including uncommon events like a device crash or reboot. 

In addition, it’s important to evaluate kiosk mode app behavior when apps crash to determine the app and device behavior. Users shouldn’t be able to access the device settings or force a factory reset when an app crashes.  

Esper offers a complete set of cloud tools to simplify and streamline the provisioning and deployment of Android kiosk hardware or other Android devices that are locked to single or multi-app kiosk mode. We also offer an extensive selection of enhanced, validated, and custom hardware to fit virtually all use cases. Click here to explore Esper’s Android hardware.