Convert Android Smartphone into a Dumb Phone

Learn how to disable distracting or web browsing features on an Android device.

by Tech Lockdown Team
Updated February 19, 2024

Sometimes, it's easy to look back at all of the technological improvements made within the last couple of decades and wish for a simpler time. A Smartphone is great, but sometimes all we want to do is make a phone call. Fortunately, there are ways to enable device restrictions and block content on an Android device .

This modern world offers a lot of convenience. A world without GPS maps seems like a much harder world, and yet, people still want to keep things simple. 

And they might be right. This increased access to technology is not always better. Sensitive or explicit content on the internet is rampant and presents a challenge to many people. Some of us might find it healthy to limit our technology, even if it isn't inherently harmful.

Tech Lockdown is dedicated to helping people find healthy ways to limit their technology exposure. Instead of using an older phone (i.e. flip phone), you could instead use a " Healthy Smartphone ". 

To create a Healthy Android, one effective approach is to use a Mobile Device Manager (MDM) to customize the device's settings and features.

A Mobile Device Manager is a software application that allows users to remotely manage and control devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Device Restrictions

The following MDM policy settings can be enabled or disabled to achieve the ideal healthy smartphone setup. 

Users can install unapproved apps

By enforcing this option, you can block all downloadable apps by default and only enable downloading apps that you have explicitly approved.

This means that you don't have to create a large list of blocked apps , you only have to focus on the apps you want to allow.

Android Browser

Disabling the Android browser effectively removes the ability to use any web-browser app on your smartphone. The default android browser app will be removed and your device won't allow you to install browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox.

Web Content Filter Allow-only Mode

An alternative to disabling Android Browser is web content filtering with allow-only mode. This allows you to block all websites by default while only allowing access to specific websites that you have explicitly approved. 

Web content filter settings apply to web browsers downloaded on the device and shouldn't impact other apps that use the internet.

Kiosk Mode

Kiosk mode allows you to enable the most restrictive mode where you can further customize the features available on the device.

You can enforce Kiosk mode with your MDM. Here's my phone running in kiosk mode in Multi App Mode:

Notice that it looks like a standard Android phone, but I'm not able to access device settings or load a web browser or the Google play store.

Here are the features to consider when creating a dumb phone using Kiosk mode:

Block Task Manager (Samsung phones only)

This removes the Force Stop function used to quit apps from the app's settings page. This is useful when combined with a filtering app.

Restrict access to unapproved WiFi networks

You can prevent connecting to WiFi networks that weren't configured by the Mobile Device Manager. 

Allowed apps

Specify the apps (including system apps) that can be accessed. Apps that aren't specified on this list can't be accessed while Kiosk mode is running. 

Consider blocking access to the following Android features by not including them in the Allowed Apps list:

  1. General Settings app
  2. Web Browsers
  3. Google Play store or Android App Store

If Google Play store is enabled and you download a new app, it will only be accessible if you update your Kiosk mode settings to add that app to the Allowed Apps list. 

Hidden apps

Specify apps that should run on the device but not be visible to the user. This is useful if you are using a filtering app and you haven't blocked web browsers. In this case, you can run a filtering app in the background and prevent it from being disabled by blocking access to General Settings (see allowed apps section). 

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Closing Thoughts

This guide has shown a couple techniques that allow an Android Smartphone to become a "Healthy Smartphone". This Healthy Smartphone provides a high level of protection from explicit content online.

Sometimes, it is better to simplify things, and with technology, that is no exception.