Increasingly, we find ourselves using our smartphones and tablets across all areas of our lives, be it at the office or at home. The BYOD culture of many workplaces has meant that we’re mixing work and play in ways we haven’t before. While it’s incredible that one device can meet all of our needs, it also means that we could end up revealing personal information at work or result in important or private work matters being placed on display at home.
When you first launch the free-to-download Hexlock, you’ll be asked to set a pin or pattern to use when unlocking your apps. In the app, you can create profiles for your frequent locations — like Work, Home or Coffee Shop — or to restrict access when handing the device to particular users — a ‘Kids’ mode for parental controls, for example.
These profiles are very easy to configure. There are a few named for you already which are ready to edit, or you can add your own (up to 6). For each profile, you can select apps that are locked by the aforementioned pin or pattern and, when the profile is activated, these apps will require unlocking before launching. Super simple.
I found that Hexlock worked consistently throughout my testing. Apps that were unlocked opened as normal, and those that were locked brought up the Hexlock screen before the app itself launched.
When testing Hexlock, I was hesitant to see if it reduced the battery life of my device or caused it to run more slowly (even if that was only my perception) by adding that extra layer between tapping to launch the app and getting to use it. I found quickly tapping in a passcode or swiping a pattern to be smooth and fast, with little lag, meaning it was about as efficient as an app of this kind could get. There’s also a re-lock delay feature that prevents you from having to repeatedly enter the passcode or pattern if switching between apps quickly which reduces friction.
While it’s straightforward to switch between profiles manually — and an attractive, fluid design makes it less laborious to do — a particularly clever feature of Hexlock is the ability to set network-based profiles. If, for example, you connect to the work Wi-Fi while in the office, you can have Hexlock activate your Work profile automatically. Similarly, on your home network you can auto-activate your Parental profile. If you travel between coffee shops, home and different workspaces, this takes away some of the pain often associated with additional security measures. Basing the settings on network — rather than location — is also smart as it saves the app from having to track your location constantly (and burning through your battery).
There’s a persistent notification that allows you to quickly see which profile is activated — it’s an optional feature, but I found it useful for glancing at the active profile and checking the correct locks were in place.
I’d like to see fingerprint support for more devices as the sensors become more common on Android devices. There is already support for a number of Samsung devices, and I hope support across the board is coming.
You’ll see ads in Hexlock, but these can be removed with an in-app purchase for a dollar. The ads aren’t particularly intrusive, but the experience is nicer without them.
Hexlock is an added security layer that does its best to adapt to the varied environments your phone resides in. With the mixing of personal and private data in public spaces, I’d say it is worth including some more security in your setup. There are alternatives out there, but as a free and well-built solution, there’s little wrong with Hexlock.