Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android]

Ads by Google

android jelly bean icon   Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android]
Tablets running Android 4.2 support multiple user accounts. User accounts work just like they do on a PC — each account has its own apps, settings, and other data. If you share your tablet with another person, you can use user accounts to allow each person to have their own environment — including the launcher setup, Google account sync, and other settings. This helps give each of you more privacy when you’re using your tablet, and also allows each of you to log in with your own Google account and see only your own email and other data.

This feature is easy to set up if you have an Android 4.2 device. It’s a useful feature not found in Apple’s competing iPad, making it easy to leave a tablet lying around and share it with your significant other, children, or anyone else. Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets also have multiple user accounts — Apple’s iPad is the only device that hasn’t caught up.

Note that Android 4.2 does not offer multiple user accounts on smartphones, only on tablets.

Creating Multiple User Accounts on Android 4.2

To get started, open the Settings screen on your Android tablet and tap the Users option under the Device category. If you don’t see this option, your device isn’t running Android 4.2 or above.

Ads by Google

android settings users   Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android]

Tap the Add User button at the top of the screen to create a new account.

Note that the first user you already set up on the tablet is considered the “owner.” They have the ability to delete any user’s space from the tablet, while other users can only delete their own spaces.

android settings add user   Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android]

You’ll see an informational message about user accounts. If the other person who will use the account is nearby, you can hand them the tablet and they can begin the setup process by entering their Google account and other information. They’ll go through a setup process just as they would when setting up a new Android tablet. If the other person isn’t nearby, you can leave the user account alone and they’ll be able to go through the set up process the first time they log in.

android add new user message   Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android]

Using Multiple User Accounts

Once you have multiple user accounts enabled, you can switch between them by tapping the icons at the bottom of Android’s lock screen. if the user has a PIN or password set, they’ll need it to log into their account — this prevents unauthorized people from accessing the user’s account.

To “log out,” simply lock the tablet’s screen or allow it to time out as normal — from the lock screen, other people can switch to their user account and sign in.

android lock screen user switching   Two People, One Tablet: What Are Your Options? [Android]

Only three users can be “active” at a time. Active user accounts will sync in the background, so every user’s email and other data will always be ready when they go to use the device. If you have four accounts, the least recently used user will be considered “inactive” — the three accounts used most recently will be considered active accounts and will sync.

You can manage user accounts — changing icons, renaming them, deleting accounts, and creating new accounts — from the Users screen in Settings. You can also set an “owner info” message that will appear on the lock screen from here.

But I Don’t Have Android 4.2!

Let’s say you have a tablet running Android 4.1 or older and you really want multiple user accounts. You have some options, but they’ll all probably cause you problems.

  • Android 4.1 contains a hidden multi-user feature that can be enabled with root access. However, we don’t recommend this — Google has said the feature was disabled for a reason in Android 4.1 and it will likely cause problems if you enable and use it. It’s an unfinished feature in Android 4.1.
  • SwitchMe is an app that purports to add multiple user accounts to any device running Android 2.1 or later. Your tablet will need to be rooted to do this. The app has mixed reviews. Let’s be honest — this app is a dirty hack over Android and will likely cause you problems. The experience is not as smooth, and reviews indicate that you’ll have to reboot each time you change user profiles.

We don’t recommend using any of the above tricks. If your tablet is still running Android 4.1 or older, you may want to try looking for an installing a community-developed custom ROM (like Cyanogenmod) that will bring Android 4.2 to your device and give you multiple user accounts without any dirty hacks.

Do you use multiple user accounts on your Android tablet? Do you have any other tips and tricks to recommend? leave a comment below and let us know!

Ads by Google

14 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

macwitty

No, I do not use it but have been thinking about to start. Would be nice to have an account with podcast, video, etc to prevent others from accessing my documents and email accounts when they want to watch. Have to found out if it is possible to share space between the accounts nd not have to download it twice

Chris Hoffman

App packages are shared between accounts, but other data isn’t (so if both people install a 100MB game, only 100MB of space is used for it, not 200MB).

Reply

Kannon Yamada

Nice! There’s actually a set-top device aimed specifically at the multi-user Android experience. I believe it’s in kickstarter mode right now, and I doubt it’ll take off, but it’s definitely worth looking at:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2102024857/miipc-power-to-the-parents

It’s actually a really good looking product.

Also, there’s multi-user support for the Modaco Toolkit now:

http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/05/14/modaco-toolkit-enables-easy-multi-user-support-for-rooted-phones-running-android-4-2/

Chris Hoffman

Interesting. I really don’t like the idea of an Android-based PC, though — we need real multitasking with multiple windows!

Very interesting about enabling the support on smartphones. Rumor is it’s not enabled on Android 4.2 smartphones (only tablets) because Nokia owns a patent on that. Patents ruin everything yet again.

Kannon Yamada

I agree.

However, the Paranoid Android team is working on developing a multi-window mode AND a tablet mode – so with our N4s we can do 720p out (wirelessly) and run multiple windows off it. That’s true multi-tasking!

Reply

gv

i have a hisense sero 7 pro with android 4.2.1 and i cant see “users” in the settings

Reply

Steen Toennesen

I just upgraded my tablet to 4.2.2 and I don’t have the ‘Users’ option, so you’re not quite right. I believe there is a system parameter that needs to be changed – that was what I was looking for here.

Freitas Family

I m facing same issue, after updating to 4.2.2 using kies, users option is not available. Could you solve?

Mo

I don’t think multiple profiles are supported on all tablets running 4.2.2. I know for a fact that my Galaxy Tab 2, 7 inch doesn’t support this feature. What a bummer…

Steen Toennesen

I think the multi user feature is always available in 4.2.2, but not necessarily enabled. I have seen something about setting a parameter ‘maxusers ?’ to the number of users you want. If default is zero in some versions of 4.2.2 then you won’t have the ‘users’ showing up in settings. To change the parameter you need to have ‘root’ access, which I have not yet been game to attempt. There is a new version of 4.2.2 available for my Onda 801 tablet, but have not installed it yet – may have multiple users enabled. Suggest you ask at the support center for your specific models.

Reply

Joost

I have 4 users on my tablet, but cannot add a fifth one; the button ‘add user’ simply isn’t there anymore! Is it correct that there is a maximum of 4 users?

Kat

I believe most actually only allow 3 users, so your tablet must be a step ahead of most ???? ????

Reply

Kat

I also have the Sero 7 Pro running 4.2.1 but no “user” option in settings. If I could just figure out how to remove the current “owner’s” name, and put mine instead, I would be happy. This used to be my husbands tablet, but he gave it to me, and I can’t get his name off.

Reply

snowboots

The first thing I did when I got my 4.2 tablet was set up a restricted”guest” account. Anyone wanting to use my tablet to look something up, read, watch a movie… Feel free. Anything more than that.. Get your own!

Your comment