When one thinks of the word “phone” these days, the first image that comes to mind probably isn’t the old rotary phone your grandparents probably had, or the wired (or if you were really fancy, wireless) stationary handsets you probably grew up with. Instead, today’s “phones” are much more than just phones; they’re entire computers that we can fit in the palm of our hand.
But despite smartphones and computers being somewhat interchangeable, they do have differences beyond their size. For instance, computers are traditionally shared between multiple users in a family, whereas smartphones typically aren’t. Except in my family, where sometimes they are.
I’ve always been a little lax with my kids when it comes to using my phone. As long as my phone is in a sturdy case and a calm environment, I never much minded letting them play games here and there. The problem was that sometimes they became curious about other parts of the phone, and sometimes they would try to explore when the opportunity arose. Nothing more than a couple of unintended texts and emails of gibberish ever came of it, fortunately. Like most aspects of parenting, you learn from your mistakes, and kids today are almost intuitively adept when it comes to modern technology, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise at how quickly they figured these things out. As a result, my kids can’t use my devices without some sort of parental controls enabled, and whether my kids actually use my phone or not is entirely dependent on the manufacturer.
For the most part, Android devices are good to go. It’s been a few years since Android introduced multi-user profiles, and although the setting is somewhat hidden, the ability to set up restricted profiles to a degree exists. Samsung is the exception as they don’t have integrated multi-user support; however, in my case, it still worked out as Samsung does have a Kids Mode app available to their users. It’s not the best kid-friendly profile app I’ve ever used, but it did do the trick in a pinch.
iOS, on the other hand, has hardly been so easy. Only recently did I discover this somewhat hidden feature, despite that it’s been around apparently since iOS 6 (which just goes to show that there’s always something new to learn about phones!) called Guided Access, which is basically a parent’s best friend. Guided Access locks you into an app you’re in with a triple-press of the home button. Another triple-press (and a passcode) is needed to exit, making the feature is essentially foolproof against those tricksy hobbitses.
The only real problem with this is that one app is rarely entertaining for too long, depending on the type of apps the kids are playing with. I have a few games for kids on my phone, and it would be nice just to have a profile with those games on it rather than needing to switch the guided access every time somebody gets bored. But, in addition to having an entire profile dedicated to younger ones, I think that profiles, in general, would be a good addition to iOS.
My own experience and life circumstances have me desiring a profile for the purpose of keeping my young child entertained, but also feel I could benefit from multiple profiles, mostly for professional and personal reasons. My desktop, for example, has two different profiles: one for work/school and one for personal use. The work and school profile help keep me focused on getting work done with fewer distractions at my disposal. My personal profile is open to whatever. It isn’t necessary, by any means; it’s really a matter of self-control at the end of the day. But I do like keeping the two separate, and feel that my productivity has improved by having that separation.
Even if it’s never made available for the iPhone, I do think that the iPad could greatly benefit from this addition. iPads are more akin to multiple users like a traditional computer might be, whether it’s between family or classrooms, and the “Shared iPad” feature currently available just has too many limitations to make it truly feel like it can be one device for many. I recently sold an iPad Air because I didn’t feel like I used it enough on my own, but if my family had been able to share the device, we would probably be more willing to keep it – or purchase a new one.
I do think that both the iPhone and iPad could benefit from multi-user support, but the iPad seems like it would be a more likely candidate at the end of the day, especially considering Apple's stance of making the iPad Pro a computer replacement. Regardless, I’d be happy either way and feel that many people might appreciate such a feature on iOS.
Readers, what are your thoughts on multi-user support? Do you think that the feature would be beneficial? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!