There are a number of ways to lock the user into an app – but Android currently doesn’t make it easy.
The most basic solution is to place the phone or tablet in a physical housing which prevents buttons being pressed and hides the status and navigation bars, but trying to source such a housing can be tricky (and costly) and it can make the device feel bulky and difficult to use.
A software solution would be far better…
It’s possible to use standard Android SDK calls to lock down an app but it’s neither trivial nor pretty – system pop-ups and notifications can’t be disabled so they have to be hidden immediately after appearing which can lead to flickering.
One alternative is to root the device (where the stock Android OS is replaced by a custom ROM giving root access to the underlying Linux Kernel) allowing you complete freedom to change system files which you can hack manually or to download a non-standard app to lock down the device.
More recently there’s a better solution for many Samsung devices. Samsung has recently released its KNOX SDK to certified Android developers (Bearded Hen is currently one of only 43 such developers in the UK) which, apart from many other enterprise features, allows developers to put the devices in kiosk mode. Knox is also the first Android platform with official security approval from the U.S Department of Defence so if you have stringent security requirements it’s worth considering.
Get in touch if you need to lock devices into one app and disable the home, back and menu buttons so you can safely use phones and tablets for demos at shows and exhibitions, or as dedicated control panels/interfaces for machinery, equipment, hotel rooms etc.