How to turn off Android's screen lock for yourself (but keep it for everyone else)

The two networks that can free your phone. Credit: Original photo by michperu/Flickr

Thieves, snoops, trickster friends--they see passwords, but you get quick unlocking convenience.

Everyone should have a passcode on their smartphone screen. You use your phone to send email, check bills and accounts, and keep notes on all kinds of matters, which is what someone else could do if they picked up your lost or stolen phone. Beyond that, there are your nosy or prank-inclined friends, the ones just waiting for your to leave your phone behind on a bathroom break.

But turning on a screen lock code on Android can lead to niggling annoyances--namely, having to type in that code every time you want to fire off or check something in quick order. Same with iPhone, but iOS doesn't give you as many deep-down preferences and settings abilities as Android. With Android, you can install an app that provides a nice security/convenience compromise: only ask for a screen lock passcode when the phone is very provably away from its user and their normal situations.

In other words: no passcode when your phone is with you in most situations, but definitely a passcode if someone picks it up away from your home, office, laptop, or car. Let's get there.

To get there, you'll need to install Bluetooth and Wifi Unlocker. After installing it and opening it for the first time, you'll be asked to grant the app "Administrative privileges," which basically allows the app to set or reset the screen lock passcode. Next, the app asks you to give it a new passcode (though you can type the same code you've always used, if you have one already). More than once, BTWiFiUnlocker (short for that seriously long full name) will remind you that if you ever decide to turn off screen lock, or change your code, you will need to make passcode changes through this app, and that you must not uninstall the app before undoing this code. Bearing that in mind, the next steps are very easy.

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Setting Bluetooth devices to keep your phone unlocked.

Head to the Wifi tab and check the boxes that represent Wi-Fi networks you're connected to on a regular basis: home, work, relatives' and friends' homes, and so on. Don't check boxes for Wi-Fi spots at coffee shops, airports, or the like. Over in the Bluetooth tab, you can be more liberal, checking boxes for any headsets, laptops, cars, or devices to which you're often connected. BTWifiUnlocker only unlocks your phone for those specific Bluetooth devices, not any device with the same name. So no need to worry about a rogue agent with a FitBit gaining access to your Evernote stash.

That's really all I have to say about Bluetooth and Wifi Unlocker, other than to note that the free edition I'm linking limits you to one Wi-Fi and one Bluetooth device--which might be fine for some users. To get more devices added to your whitelist, you'll need to buy the $3 full version.

Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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