It might be something as innocuous as emails from your accountant, an embarrassing series of texts to your ex, or something a bit racier, like some… intimate photos or a horrible video of you doing karaoke. Whatever it may be, pretty much everyone has something to hide lurking on their phone.
Privacy has become a more important consideration over the last few years. Since the reveal in 2013 that the NSA was harvesting our communications data, more and more people are getting wise to how important it is to secure our data.
Not only that, but we all have nosy friends, relatives, and colleagues, to whom the concept of personal property apparently doesn’t apply. It doesn’t matter if they’re borrowing it to look something up on Google, checking their Facebook, looking at your photos, or to play on your games. Anyone with something they don’t want everyone to see knows the creeping horror of letting someone roam unsupervised through our personal devices.
So, what are your options? For most of us, swearing off using smartphones is hardly a viable choice. If we’re going to keep putting very personal information on our rather insecure phones, we’d better either hide it, or at least lock it away. It might be slightly less convenient, but that’s probably a small price to pay to keep your private things actually private.
There are a number of apps on Google Play Store that can help you to regain your privacy, and we’ve waded through them to find our top picks.
Private Message Box by Private SMS Box
A simple place to start, this app allows you to designate people as private contacts. Once you do that, any messages from them will be automatically diverted into the app and locked behind a pin code. It will also hide your multimedia messages and phone logs. As an added bonus, you can text other users of the app for free.
AppLock by DoMobile Lab
One of hundreds of apps with the same name, this is one of the best of the bunch. It can lock pretty much any app on your phone, not just your messengers, so you can protect just about anything on there from prying eyes.
It also has time and location locks, so you can automatically protect your messages when you leave the house. You can lock it with a pin, a pattern, or even with your fingerprint scanner, and it can randomize the keypad so that it’s even harder for people to spy your code. And if someone tries to get past your lock, it will even take a picture of them for you.
This app has been downloaded over 100 million times, so it must be doing something right! At just over 8mb, and with a power saving mode and low memory overhead, this app might well be the answer you’ve been looking for. Plus, all the features are free, though there are ads that you can disable by paying.
Norton App Lock by NortonMobile
It should come as no surprise that one of the giants of the cybersecurity world has an offering for the app locking market. A solid alternative to the previous app, Norton claims that this app is more secure than most of the others available. It has fewer features than DoMobile’s version, but it is entirely free, without any ads.
Smart Launcher 5 by Smart Launcher Team
An alternative approach is to use a launcher with built-in locking functionality. This popular launcher has a load of options, with adaptive themes, various widgets, and plenty of room for customization.
Most importantly for what we’re looking at, it has the capability to hide any app that you want from your phone, so your nosy friends won’t even be able to find your messenger app.
Security Master by Cheetah Mobile
For a more comprehensive security suite, you could give this app a try. Security Master has pretty much all the same options as the other app lockers here plus the added bonus of a VPN, so you can hide your location as well as the messages you send. It can also automatically diagnose security issues for you, so it’s good for those with a more hands-off approach.
Viber Messenger by Viber Media
The final entry on our list represents a different way of dealing with your message privacy concerns. Instead of relying on the stock messaging app on your phone, you can replace it entirely with a more secure and versatile option. Viber is one of the most popular messaging apps on the market, with over one billion users. There’s a good chance you’ll be able to take advantage of the free calls and messages between users.
For extra security, you can set your messages to self-destruct after a set time. It also has the ability to hide your chats and lock them behind a pin code, so you can rest assured that no-one will be able to discover your secret plans for world domination. Even better, it uses end-to-end encryption on the messages, which means that only you and the person you are talking to will ever be able to read what you sent. Take that, NSA!