iPad Kiosk Mode: A Guide to iPadOS Guided Access and Beyond

Cam Summerson
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Kiosk mode is a way to lock devices to a single app. For iPads used in businesses, this is a way to ensure tablets are only used for the intended purpose. Despite the name “kiosk mode,” it’s designed for various uses, like point of sale solutions, digital signage, and kiosks of all varieties. 

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Does iPad Have Kiosk Mode? 

While it isn’t called “kiosk mode,” iPadOS has a setting that locks a single app to the screen. It’s called Guided Access, and it’s a basic way to enable single-app mode right out of the box.

Features of Guided Access on iPad

While Guided Access isn’t a full-featured kiosk solution, it does offer an excellent basic feature set. With Guided Access, you can: 

  • Lock a single app to the screen
  • Disable the power and volume buttons
  • Restrict access to the keyboard
  • Disable touch
  • Set custom time limits

Once enabled, Guided Access can only be disabled with a passcode (separate from the user passcode), making it a very secure option (assuming the passcode is strong). 

Benefits of Guided Access on iPad

While Guided Access is relatively simplistic, it has several benefits, especially for individual users, smaller businesses, or those with only a few iPads. 

  • It’s secure: Guided Access requires either TouchID or a passcode to close, making it very secure. It’s nearly impossible to bypass Guided Access easily. 
  • Options to disable power and volume buttons, keyboard, and touch controls: With Guided Access, you can completely disable the volume and power buttons, so your device is always on and at the volume where it should be. This also makes it impossible for someone to force a restart using the volume buttons. Similarly, you can disable the software keyboard and even limit touchscreen access if it makes sense for your situation. 
  • It’s easy to use: Guided Access is built-in, easy to set up, and easy to use. 

For many businesses, especially those with just a few iPads, Guided Access is a straightforward way to get the benefits of a fully locked down iPad. But it’s not without its limitations. 

Limitations of Guided Access

For all of its advantages, using Guided Access for any sort of kiosk mode also has several disadvantages. 

  • It doesn’t scale: Using Guided Access on a single iPad is easy. Even using it on two or three is fine. But setting up and maintaining Guided Access becomes very time-consuming as you add more — 10, 15, 100 — iPads.
  • No remote management: Since you manage Guided Access on the device, you're out of luck if you need to make changes and don’t have it in your hands. 
  • Limited customization: Guided Access has some good, basic customization features, but if you’re looking for anything more than a simple on/off for volume, power, keyboard, and touch, you’ll be left wanting. 

Guided Access isn’t an all-encompassing solution for using kiosk mode or setting up iPads for business uses. It’s for simpler uses, and that’s where it excels. 

What if I Need More Than Guided Access?

Whether you read that list and realized Guided Access won't cut it or you already use Guided Access and are bumping up against its limitations, there’s good news: you have choices. You'll need dedicated iPad kiosk software (often called iPad Kiosk Mode) to take your iPad kiosk game to the next level. A solid kiosk solution for iPad is like Guided Access on steroids by building on those kinds of features in nearly every way. If you’ve ever thought, “I like Guided Access, but wish I could [do a thing],” then kiosk software is almost certainly the solution you need. 

Specific features will vary across kiosk software providers, but most iPad kiosk software will let you set single and multi-app kiosk modes, enable web filtering, lock specific web pages to the screen, block access to buttons, and more. The most significant benefit, however, is that you can do this all remotely and across a range of devices — no more setting up, configuring, and updating settings manually on a per-device basis. 

With kiosk software enabled on an iPad, the foreground application (or web page) is locked to the screen, so users are locked out of other parts of the system. You can also lock devices to a specific screen orientation, so your ideal experience is always the one on offer. 

Typically, kiosk software is offered through an MDM (Mobile Device Management) provider that enables kiosk mode on iOS or iPadOS devices.

Features of iPad Kiosk Mode with an MDM Provider

With the right kiosk mode provider, you'll get all the features of Guided Access and a lot more, including: 

  • Robust, unbreakable kiosk mode — much stronger than just a passcode on Guided Access
  • Remote management, configuration, and content updates across multiple devices at once
  • Full control of all the operating system and its various functions without direct access to the device
  • Button and feature control: Disable power and volume buttons, sleep settings, display timeout, screen orientation, and more
  • Automatic kiosk mode enforcement upon reboot

The right kiosk software provider is invaluable to a device strategy that requires a hardened, reliable kiosk mode.

Benefits of iPad Kiosk Mode

The features offered as part of a kiosk mode package with an MDM are just the start. The benefits of using an MDM provider over Guided Access are notable: 

  • Scalability: Guided Access is great if you have fewer than a handful of iPads — at least in terms of scalability, anyway — but once you get into double digits and beyond, you truly need a dedicated kiosk mode.
  • Security: Guided Access is pretty secure on its own, but it's not truly unbreakable. When you're putting private data on the line, something robust, hardened, and unbreakable is a must.
  • Remote updates: With kiosk mode provided by an MDM, you can remotely change configurations, apps, and other system settings.
  • Efficiency: When a device is truly locked down, you don't have to worry about things going wrong because of misuse. No external app installs, no misconfigurations. It just works.

For businesses that rely on iPads for critical business functions, a strong, reliable kiosk mode policy is a must.

Limitations of iPad Kiosk Mode

While reliable and scalable, there are downsides to using a dedicated kiosk mode solution on iPad.

  • Cost: Anything worth having is worth paying for, right? Kiosk mode doesn't come free and sometimes it admittedly hard to justify the cost.
  • Connection dependency: When it comes to any remote management tool, if the device isn't connected to the internet, then you can't access it.
  • Hardware lock-in: Not all kiosk mode providers are created equal, and you might get one that limits you to a specific model of iPad or OS version.
  • Technical implementation, adoption, and training: There are plenty of benefits to kiosk mode on the front end, but someone has to learn to use that stuff on the back end, right?

Nothing is ever perfect, right? If it's simple, it's not robust enough. If it's robust, it's complicated. It's all about finding the right balance for your needs.

How to Set up Guided Access on iPad

Getting started with Guided Access on iPadOS is pretty straightforward. 

  • Open the Settings app and scroll down to Accessibility 
  • Scroll to the bottom of the Accessibility menu to the “General” section
  • Tap on Guided Access and flip the toggle to the On position
  • Set up your passcode and enable TouchID or FaceID (device dependent) 
  • Set up notifications for Time Limits (optional) 
  • Enable the Accessibility Shortcut (optional) 
  • Modify the screen lock timeout (optional)

With everything set up, quickly press the home button (power button on devices that don’t have a home button) three times to enter Guide Access mode. The app will shrink slightly, and Guided Access options will appear: Start in the upper right corner, Cancel in the upper left corner, and Options in the lower left corner. You can also use your finger to circle areas on the screen that you wish to disable — this will reject taps and swipes in that area. 

The options menu (lower left corner) is where you’ll find options to disable the “Top Button” (read: power button), volume buttons, motion, software keyboard, touch inputs, dictionary lookup, and set time limits. It’s worth noting that the feature is active when the slider is in the on position (green slider). For example, if the slider is on for the volume buttons, the volume buttons will function as expected when Guided Access is enabled. This is slightly counterintuitive, in my opinion. 

Once you have everything set up to your liking, tap the Start button in the upper right corner. Guided Access mode will activate instantly, and the iPad will be locked to the foreground application until you disable Guided Access. 

To exit Guided Access, press the home button (power button on devices that don’t have a power button) three times, then enter your passcode. Tap “End” in the upper left corner. If you set a timer, the iPad screen will dim, and a “Time Expired” warning will take over — disable Guided Access to close this screen.  

Should I Use Guided Access or Kiosk Software?

This will depend on your use case and how many iPads you have. If you’re running three iPads in a single location, Guided Access is a good place to start — it’s easy, it’s already available on your devices, and it’s free. Sure, it’s limited, but it might be enough, at least to start. But if you have 25 iPads across 5 locations? Guided Access probably isn’t going to cut it — a more robust device management solution will make your life easier, especially as you scale. 

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More Kiosk Mode Resources: 


What is iPad kiosk mode, and how do I enable it?

iPad kiosk mode is a feature that allows you to lock your iPad into a single app or website and prevent access to other features or settings. To enable kiosk mode, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access, toggle the switch on, set a passcode, and select the app or website you want to lock the device to.

Can I exit kiosk mode without a passcode?

No, you cannot exit kiosk mode without entering the passcode you set when enabling guided access. This is to ensure that unauthorized users cannot access other apps or settings on the iPad.

How do I disable certain features in guided access mode?

To disable certain features like touch, motion, or specific areas of the screen, triple-click the home button while in guided access mode, enter your passcode, and select "Options" in the bottom left corner. From there, you can toggle off any features you want to disable.

Does the iPad support single app mode?

Guided Access locks a single app to the screen. If you need multi-app mode, you'll need an MDM with kiosk mode.

What are some other ways to customize guided access mode?

In addition to disabling features, you can also set a time limit for guided access sessions, create a shortcut to enable guided access more quickly, and configure guided access to require Face ID or Touch ID instead of a passcode. These options can be found in the Guided Access settings menu.

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Cam Summerson
Cam Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.

Cam Summerson
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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