Why I’d use the heck out of multi-user on Android phones


“You know what I hate? Handing my tablet over to one of my kids to keep them entertained ‘for a few minutes’ only to discover that their ‘entertainment’ was changing my wallpaper, rearranging my icons, and messing up my tablet!”

That’s what I said back in 2012 when we started learning about Android 4.2 A New Flavor of Jelly Bean. Since then, two out of the three tablets in my house has multiple logins. My wife shares her original Nexus 7 with our seven year old son, and I have a “guest” account set up on my 2013 Nexus 7. The practicality of multi-user support on a tablet is almost without words, but something is missing.

pesky-kidEver since Android 4.2, we’ve been able to set up multiple users, so everybody can have their own space, homescreen and wallpaper, widgets and apps, and even their own scores and accomplishments for installed games. Unfortunately, this feature has only been available for tablets, though several custom ROMs were able to bring multi-user support to smartphones as well.

Now, smartphones may be getting multi-user support with Android L – and I’m going to use the heck out of!

The heck, you say?

The heck I do!

Whether or not you’re from a big family in Utah or a small family in some other corner of the globe, some family member always wants to mess with your phone.

Who can blame them. You’ve always got the latest and greatest gadgets, and they’re stuck with whatever their carrier says they can have for that upgrade cycle. They want to see what you’re packin’ so they know what to get the next time they’re eligible for an upgrade.

But handing your phone over to a sibling (or worse yet, a parent) just so they can “take a look at it” is often fraught with peril. A glance through your photos might disclose that you’re not studying quite as much as you let on, or that even though you say you’re a Seahawks fan, you really like the Browns. What about that nice girl you’ve been dating? Pictures of her stopped being snapped last month. What happened? I really liked her, you looked good together! Or maybe she’s not the “nice girl” that you’ve been pretending that she is.

multi-user supportOf course, with my friends it usually means people’s names in my address book are replaced by Star Trek characters, or perhaps an entire party of dwarfs. My wallpaper is usually changed to something embarrassing, and who knows what they installed from the Play Store.

No, that won’t stop me from showing off my latest gadgets, but I sure would like to be able to switch them over into “guest” mode before handing my phone to them. Wouldn’t you?


Smartphones are also excellent cash registers. With numerous payment processors available (PayPal, Amazon, Square, and more), all of which pretty much require a cell phone (or tablet with a cellular or WiFi connection). If you want to sell stuff, you’ve got to be able to accept payments, but you may not want to input your username and password onto someone else’s smartphone so they can run purchases while you’re helping someone else. Similarly, you may not want to hand over your phone (or tablet) when you’re in that situation. You may want your device to be used only for purchases, and not for checking Facebook or Instagram.

Here again, multi-user support can step in, allowing you to hand over your phone, without handing over the keys to the kingdom.

Your turn

There are a couple multi-user scenarios that I would totally use the heck out of, but what about you? Head down to the comments and let us know how you’d put multi-user support to work on your smartphone!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.