Now that just about everyone has high-quality cameras on their phones, people's smartphones have become the main repository for all their photos. This can be great for showing off photos of your kids or reminiscing about an event in the past. But what about when you leave your phone on your desk or coffee table--do you really want people to have access to all your pictures?
This week's iOS app collection provides a way to create a locked folder on your phone. The first is free and offers just the basics for added security. The second adds a few more features for managing photos. The third snaps a picture of would-be intruders in addition to having a secure folder.
HD Photo Lock (free) is ad-supported software that provides an easy way to create a secure area for your photos. Start by creating a folder in the app--you can create multiple folders and name them by category. With a folder created simply touch the plus sign in the upper-right corner to either add photos from your library or snap a photo using your iPhone camera. You can select as many photos as you want to move from your library, then touch Done to complete the transfer to your new folder. Be aware that they will be removed from your regular iPhone photo library when the transfer is complete.
Now that you've created a folder, you'll need to touch the unlocked/lock key in the upper left to create a password that will lock up all the folders in the app. Now, whenever someone tries to open the HD Photo Lock app, they will need to enter the password in order to see the folders. One word of warning: if you forget your password, you will need to reinstall the app to get back in and all of your folders (and the photos in them) will be erased. This necessary step insures that someone else can't delete the app and reinstall it in order to see your private photos. But it also means that those photos will be gone forever since they are no longer in your iPhone's photo library.
Though it may not be high-tech security, we think HD Photo Lock does an adequate job of giving you a locked folder for photos on your iPhone. There is one hole in the system, however: if you put your phone to sleep with the HD Photo Lock app open, the next person that looks at your phone will have full access to your locked photos. But as long as you can remember to return to the home screen before hitting the sleep button, your private photos will remain secure.
Lock My Photos (99 cents) offers more functionality than most apps the category, letting you passcode-protect your images, but also adds several more things you can do from within the app. To get started, you'll need to create a four-digit passcode using the app's number pad. Once you're in the default folder, you'll now be able to add photos from your iPhone library, or snap new pictures you want to keep private.
Lock My Photos adds a few more features than just a locked folder. You also can view your images as a slideshow, and even add transitions, adjust the time between slides, and shuffle the images in the slideshow--all from within the settings.
Perhaps the best feature of all in Lock My Photos--for those who need a hidden folder--is the Decoy passcode. In the settings, you can create what's called a Decoy passcode. Then, when you launch the app and enter the Decoy passcode, the app opens another instance of the program where you can create folders of photos of a more...mundane variety. In other words, if someone demands that you enter your passcode, you'll be able to open the program without revealing your truly secret stash of images. It's also worth noting that, unlike HD Photo Lock above, when you put the app to sleep, then return, Lock My Photos requires that you enter your passcode to regain access.
Overall, Lock My Photos is a solid solution for keeping your hidden photos safe with some added extras that make it even better. There is also a free version of this app in the iTunes App Store, but you'll only be able to secure 16 photos total.
My Secret Folder (99 cents) lets you create a secret folder for your images, and adds a few more extras in an all around well-designed package. On first launch, you'll need to add a four-digit passcode, just like the previous app in this collection. From there you'll be able to import photos from your library or take new pictures using your iPhone camera from within the app. My Secret Folder also offers a Decoy passcode setup so you can make a decoy folder.
Along with the locked folder and decoy features, My Secret Folder adds another level of security. In the settings, you can have the app snap a picture using your front facing camera when an intruder attempts to enter a passcode incorrectly. In the settings, you also can monitor break-in attempts and view the photos snapped by your added security system. Unbelievably, this app suffers from the same problem that HD Photo Lock does--it doesn't account for waking the app up from sleep. Still, with numerous other features, it's worth remembering to always close the app before putting your iPhone to sleep.
Overall, Lock My Photos offers a nicely designed app for keeping a locked folder on your iPhone. Even with the iPhone sleep issue, this app offers the most features of this collection.