Block Apps

How To Effectively Block Apps on Smartphones

Learn about how to block apps on the different smartphones, such as iPhone and Android.

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Tech Lockdown Team
Updated May 13, 2024

If you've ever tried to block an app on your smartphone, then you'll know how confusing it can be to find methods that actually work. Most of the advice you can find online recommends screen time or parental controls, but unfortunately, they simply have too many limitations. There are better ways to block apps that are more effective than what's possible with either parental controls or screen time.

Screen time apps or settings are designed for productivity. Parental Controls are designed for families. It makes sense that they don't work if you're trying to self-manage:

  1. You will often need to create multiple accounts if you want to use parental controls to block apps completely.
  2. You can use App Limits to set a very low time limit for apps, but this doesn't block the app completely
  3. You can easily disable your own restrictions.

At Tech Lockdown, we are focused on finding ways to properly restrict technology. These are the methods we've tested that actually work to block apps on smartphones.

Blocking an App Depends on Your Smartphone

The process of blocking apps varies significantly between iPhone and Android smartphones. As a result, this article will only cover the general topics that work between both smartphone types.

That's why we've made separate guides that go into much more detail for both iPhone and Android smartphones. This guide will provide an overview of some of the techniques that work on both types of phones, but if you want more detailed information about your smartphone, feel free to come back to this section.

Blocking Apps on iPhone can be a bit complicated. The easiest way is to use Screen Time settings, but this isn't the most effective (nor the only) option.

Blocking Apps on Android smartphones is a bit easier. Android is more customizable (and less proprietary) than iPhone, so AppLocker apps tend to be easier to install. However, there are more ways to block apps.

Limit an App Using Parental Controls

Later on, we'll go over better ways to block apps, but let's start with the built-in features you can use on both iPhone and Android phones. 

Most smartphones have some kind of screen time feature built in as part of their Settings. Unfortunately, the most you can usually do is set an App limit, but you might be able to prevent apps from being installed in the first place. 

You can use iPhone's parental controls to prevent new apps from being installed. This is not the same as blocking an app, but it can work for some people.

You can then lock your Screen Time settings behind a PIN. We strongly recommend using a second Apple ID to prevent changing your Passcode using the forgot PIN feature.

Android smartphones use Digital Wellbeing settings to set app limits. When compared to iPhone Screen Time, Digital Wellbeing is less focused on blocking content, and more on productivity. As a result, the most you can usually do is set an App limit or enable parental controls on Android .

Using Parental Controls or Screen Time features aren't your only options, however. There are much better ways to block apps.

Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Get Powerful DNS Filtering
Create and enforce a Content Policy on all your devices.

Block an App with a DNS Content Policy

If you're looking for something more powerful than parental controls, then you can consider connecting your devices to a DNS Content Policy. A Content Policy offers you more customization options if you're trying to limit or block social media, for example:

  1. Block both the app and web versions of social media apps.
  2. Set a scheduled rule to block social media apps at night (or whenever they can be most distracting).
  3. Enforce other restrictions while you use apps, like SafeSearch mode for browsers, restricted mode for YouTube , and more. 

You can combine parental control features with your Content Policy for the best results. However, we'll look at an even better way to create your own app blocklist.

Connect your smartphone to your Content Policy

Once you've successfully connected your smartphone , you can create your own content policy to start blocking apps:

Block an App with your Content Policy

If you want to block an app, you will first need to create an always blacklist rule:

Here, you can choose an app to block:

Set a Schedule for When You Can Use Apps

If you don't want to block an app always, you can enable a  scheduled block rule to prevent you from accessing social media during nighttime.

You can also choose to block specific apps:

Apply Different Rules for Each Person at Your House

Each person might need slightly different settings. You can create rules that are scoped for different members on your account.

Prevent bypassing your restrictions on your smartphone

The next important step is to make sure that filtering can't be uninstalled or disabled. Screen time or parental controls can be a great way to do this, however, we'll also walk you through a more effective option later.

It will depend on which kind of smartphone you have. Android users can use Digital Wellbeing and Parental controls to enforce apps with Family Link.

We typically don't recommend relying on Family Link alone, since it usually involves setting multiple accounts (if you're self-managing, it's relatively easy to disable anyway).

If you have an iPhone, then you can use screen time to prevent apps from being uninstalled. This setting can be found under Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > iTunes & App Store Purchases.

We recommend setting Installing Apps and Deleting Apps to Don't Allow. The only downside with this approach is doing this disables the App Store on your iPhone, which pauses app updates.

iPhones also have the option to use something called a mobileconfig file , which enables you to install DNS filtering without having an app installed.

Mobile Config files can't be removed from your iPhone in the same way as you would an app. If you set up supervised or managed mode on your device, then you can prevent the config file from being removed entirely.

The most effective way to enforce a DNS filter is to set up managed mode for your iPhone or Android smartphone.

When you set up Tech Lockdown , you have the option to point to the DNS filter with the config file.

Manage Android and iOS Devices at Home
Manage Android and iOS Devices at Home
Go further with blocking content and preventing bypass on iPhone and Android smartphones.

Going Further with Blocking Apps Using Supervised or Managed Mode

Relying on parental controls or screen time alone isn't the best option if you want to block apps, especially if you’re trying to self-manage:

  1. Using an App Limit to block an app requires that the app is already installed on your smartphone. This might an option for you if you are wanting to block a default app (like the App Store), but the lowest most App Limits will let you set as a time limit is 1 minute per day.
  2. You might be able to stop new apps from being installed, but this usually comes with a few problems. On iPhones, disabling the App Store prevents currently installed apps from being updated correctly. For Android, you have to create multiple accounts in order to enable Family Link correctly.

If you're looking for the best way to block apps, then you need to enable managed mode on your smartphone.

Tech Lockdown members get access to premium guides that have step-by-step guides that show you how to enabled device supervision or management on your own devices.

Managed Mode (also known as Device Management) lets you enforce full control over your smartphone. It uses something called a Mobile Device Manager (MDM) to enforce a profile onto your device.

Managed devices can change all kinds of settings that are normally impossible to change on a smartphone, such as the ability to:

  • Remotely install or delete apps.
  • Create a custom App blocklist.
  • Enforce a Content Filter.
  • Hide default apps (like Settings or the App Store) with Kiosk mode.

Add an App to Your Blocklist

If you want to block an app, you can add it to something called the App Blocklist:

Not only will this prevent the app from being installed on your smartphone, but it can also be used to remotely uninstall that app if it's already installed on your smartphone.

Remotely Install and Prevent Uninstalling Filtering Apps

You also unlock the ability to remotely install apps. These apps can be enforced so that it's impossible to disable, which is why we recommend combining Managed Mode with DNS filtering. You can enforce the filtering app so that it's impossible to uninstall.

Disable Default Apps and Prevent Changes to Settings

You also get the option to block apps that are normal impossible to fully disable, such as the Settings app. This can be done by using the Kiosk feature:

Manage Your Smartphone to Go Beyond Basic Blocking

Earlier in this article, we mentioned that parental controls and screen time aren't enough if you want to prevent a DNS filtering app from being uninstalled. 

If you want to enable the best possible way to always enforce your DNS Content Policy, then enabling managed mode on your smartphone is the best possible way to do this. You won't have to rely on parental controls, which are relatively easy to disable (especially if you're self-managing). 

Manage Android and iOS Devices at Home
Manage Android and iOS Devices at Home
Go further with blocking content and preventing bypass on iPhone and Android smartphones.

The Most Effective Way to Block Apps on Smartphones

If you've made it to this section, you might have noticed that we haven't gone into much detail about how you can start applying these settings to either iPhone or Android smartphones. There are simply too many differences between the two. 

Instead, we've provided seperate guides that are focused on each smartphone type. If you want to block apps on iPhone , you can use screen time settings with moderate results. If you want to block apps on Android smartphones, you might be able to use an AppLocker app to achieve some success.

If you need help deciding whether it's better to use one smartphone type over the other, we have also compared iPhone vs Android smartphones for content blocking .

Tech Lockdown members get access to our premium, step-by-step guides that walk you through the process of managing your smartphones. These guides explain how to set up your devices so that you can fully control all aspects of your smartphone.

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