How to Put an iPad Into “Kiosk” Mode, Restricting It to a Single App

An iPad makes a great “kiosk” device–a tablet restricted to one specific app for your home or small business. You can create a makeshift kiosk using the Guided Access feature, or enable Single App Mode for a true kiosk environment.

Both of these tricks also work on an iPhone or iPod Touch, so you can use it to put a smaller device into kiosk mode.

Guided Access vs. Single App Mode

There are two ways to do this. Guided Access is the quickest, easiest way to put an iPad in kiosk mode. Guided Access is often thought of as a parental control feature, but it’s actually intended for teachers in schools–that’s why it’s categorized as a “Learning” feature in Apple’s iOS.

Guided Access allows you to temporarily lock an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to a single app. To leave that app, someone will have to enter your PIN or provide your fingerprint.

There’s also Single App Mode, which is exactly what it sounds like: It fully locks your iPad to a single app. This is a more advanced feature intended for organizations. You’ll need to use Apple Configurator (or a mobile device management server) to enable this feature, and it can only be disabled with the same tool. However, you need to have access to a Mac to use Apple Configurator and Single App Mode.

If you need to set up a quick and dirty kiosk, Guided Access is an okay solution. But, if you want to do this properly, you should use Single App Mode. Single App Mode is a more secure solution because no one can attempt to guess your PIN to leave Single App Mode, as they can with Guided Access. More importantly, if someone resets the iPad by pressing and holding the “Sleep/Wake” and “Home” buttons at the same time, the iPad will boot back up into the app you configured. If you used Guided Access, it would just boot back up and ask you to sign in with your PIN. The iPad would remain secure–as long as someone can’t guess the PIN–but you’d have to sign in and manually enable Guided Access mode for that specific app again.

Guided Access: The Quick and Dirty Solution

To do this with Guided Access, first enable it by opening the Settings app and going to General > Accessibility > Guided Access. Enable the “Guided Access” slider here.

Tap “Passcode Settings” to set a PIN for guided access and choose whether or not you can exit Guided Access with Touch ID, if your iPad has a Touch ID sensor. You can use the same PIN you use to unlock the iPad or a different one.

Next, launch the app you’d like to lock your iPad to. Quickly press the “Home” button three times in a row. The Guided Access screen will appear, and you can use the options here to configure it. By default, the touch screen is enabled and the Sleep/Wake button is disabled. However, you can disable the touch screen and allow people to use the Sleep/Wake button, if you like.

Tap “Start” in the top-right corner of your screen when you’re ready. While in Guided Access mode, the iPad’s screen won’t turn off–it’ll remain on and unlocked for anyone to use it. You may want to plug the iPad in if you intend on leaving it on. You could also choose to enable the Sleep/Wake button on the Guided Access screen. This will allow anyone to turn off the iPad’s screen. Anyone can turn it on and they’ll be taken to the app in Guided Access mode without having to enter a PIN.

Single App Mode: The Best Solution

Single App Mode requires you put your iPad into Supervised Mode, so it’s a bit more work to set up. Single App Mode can also be remotely enabled via a mobile device management (MDM) server if your organization uses one to manage your tablets. If you just need a temporary kiosk and don’t want to bother with this, use the above solution. For a more permanent kiosk, this is ideal.

To do this without a mobile device management server, you’ll first need to download and install Apple Configurator from Apple and use it to place your iPad into Supervised Mode. You can then use Apple Configurator to enable Single App Mode. This can only be done on a Mac, as Apple Configurator only runs on Macs.

With your iPad in Supervised Mode and connected to your Mac via a USB cable, open the Apple Configurator application and select the connected device. Click the “Actions” menu, point to “Advanced,” and select “Start Single App Mode.”

You’ll be shown a list of apps installed on your iPad–both system apps and apps you’ve installed yourself. Select the app you want to lock the iPad to.

For more options, you can click the “Options” button here. By default, features like the touch screen, volume buttons, sleep/wake button, and auto-lock are all functional. However, you could use these options to disable the touch screen if you don’t want anyone actually interacting with the device, or to disable the sleep/wake button and auto-lock. This will ensure the iPad always has its screen on, which may be ideal if you’re leaving it plugged in. It’s up to you.

Click the “Select App” button when you’re done and the iPad will be truly locked to a single app. People with access to it won’t be able to triple-click the “Home” button and attempt to guess your PIN. When the iPad boots up, it’ll go right back to that specific app.

To disable Single App Mode in the future, connect the iPad to the Mac again, open Apple Configurator, and use the Actions > Advanced > Stop Single App Mode option.

Apple provides the tools you need to put an iPad into kiosk mode and lock it to a single app, but choosing an app and ensuring it functions as a proper kiosk environment is up to you. Businesses may need to have custom apps created for specific functions.
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