How secure is your Android smartphone or iPhone lock screen?


Let’s take a look at really how secure your Android smartphone and iPhone lock screen is and which of PIN, Pattern, Fingerprint, and Face scan is most secure

This is the age of smartphones and we are surrounded by two kinds of smartphones – Android and iPhones. Until a few years ago, mobile phones were meant only for phone calls, chatting, and SMSes. But now we use smartphones for almost everything including banking, updating our social media status, listening to songs, watching movies, etc. It is as though all our lives savings are locked up in our Android smartphone or iPhone. And it is protected by a screen lock from hackers and snoopers. Our smartphones are protected either by a PIN lock, Pattern Lock, Fingerprint, or a Face scan.

But have you ever asked yourself how safe is your lock screen and are either of the above screen locking methods really going to save you from hackers and snoopers? In this article, we are going to take a look at each of the above screen lock methods used to lock your Android smartphone or iPhone and give you a comprehensive report about its security.

As of today, there are following types of Android smartphone and iPhone screen locks available:

  • Pattern lock

  • PIN/password

  • Fingerprint

  • Face scan

Pattern Lock for Android smartphone :

Pattern lock is only available for older Android smartphones. Pattern lock was first patented by Apple in 2008 and subsequently by Google. Appel patented it as “Touch Gesture Actions From A Device’s Lock Screen” while Google patented it as “Automatic Derivation of Analogous Touch Gestures From A User-Defined Gesture” (patent ID: 20110279384). Google credited James B. Miller for pattern lock.

It has been a long 10 years since the Pattern lock was first introduced in 2008 in HTC Sense 3.0 UI Android smartphones. It is still used and is the primary lock screen in many Android smartphones including Samsung.

From a security perspective, the Pattern Lock is considered a medium-level security option at best. Most of Android smartphone users use simple logical patterns like L, C, Z, S, etc which makes it easy for hackers to open your Android smartphone. The simpler the pattern is, the easier it is for lurkers to copy it if they are watching over your shoulder.

In fact, the research found that hackers/snoopers were successful in recreating the swipe pattern 64.2% of the time after looking at it once.


PIN or Passcode/password is considered to be a better Android or iPhone screen lock option by security researchers. However, a four-digit PIN/Passcode is easier to crack than a six-digit PIN/passcode. PIN/Passcode is the most favored option for both Android smartphone users and iPhone users. Even FBI has struggled to open screen locks locked with a PIN or Passcode.

Earlier Android smartphones allowed you to set a paltry four-digit code, but the current set of Android smartphones let you select a much longer PIN code. If you want your Android smartphone or iPhone to be unhackable, Passcode should be at least eight characters long and should letters, numbers, and special characters. It may be a bit harder to remember and type out, but always secure. If you want your smartphone never to be hacked, you can also turn on the feature to wipe your smartphone’s memory after X number of failed login attempts.


Fingerprint locks entered the Android smartphone arena around 5 years ago. As the technology evolved, the fingerprint screen locks became a common feature. As of now, Fingerprint screen locks are gold standard for security. By placing your finger on the reader your phone will unlock within a fraction of a second.

But are Fingerprint Screen Locks foolproof? Well, bypassing a fingerprint lock isn’t entirely impossible though it takes much more knowhow and requires technical skills to recreate fingerprints. In 2017, one security researcher was able to recreate the fingerprint of Germany’s Minister of Defense from high-resolution photographs. But then, you are not the Minister of Defense and so Fingerprint screen lock is probably the safest option out there.

Face scan

The face scan screen lock feature was introduced some three years ago and still a evolving technology. As of now, only flagship smartphones have the Face Scan screen lock feature. As the words says: it scans your face to unlock your smartphone.

The technology relies on your front camera and biometric software to open the screen lock for you. The camera scans an image of your face and then matches it with the data points already stored on the smartphone. The speed of the unlock totally depends on your smartphone and the quality of its front-facing camera.

Believe it or not, Face scan screen lock is less secure than the fingerprint screen lock. The front camera can easily be tricked into thinking it is you by showing your photograph, especially a portrait. A team of researchers conducted a test on 110 different smartphones and found that Face Scan screen lock was easier to open than previously thought.


There are no two ways of saying it- locking your Android smartphone or iPhone screen is very important. How is your choice. There’s quite a variety of lock options to choose from. It’s always wise to choose a combination of features and not to rely solely on just one. In general, having a fingerprint biometric lock in combination with a passcode is the more secure way to go.

However, budget Android smartphones don’t have that option so go for a longish PIN/Passcode or password of sufficient length and complexity. Remember, whichever option you choose, take a look over your shoulder to see if any snooper is lurking. It is always a better option to be secure and careful.


About Author

"The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had." Eric Schmidt

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments