I like the idea of multi-user profiles on smartphones

Published: August 7, 2014

Several years ago now, back when smartphones weren't so prevalent, I frequently saw people pass around a device to show off. Or, with couples, share a device because it was better than the flip-phone one or the other had. But, as years progressed, I stopped seeing it so much. Maybe that's because everyone has a cool phone now, or maybe it's a security thing. (Or any number of other reasons.)

I've heard a few people in the past, not so much recently, suggest that the smartphone isn't a "family device." That, by and large, it's a handset that's meant specifically for one person, and that's generally how people use them. Which, I can probably agree with, for the most part. I guess my only stipulation would be that it depends on the age of the family members.

See, while my smartphone is mine, and I don't freely hand it around to anyone, there's a big caveat there for my daughters, who get to play with my phone quite a bit. So, I guess I have to consider my phone a family device, because my family uses it.

Tablets, though. Even if it's just a larger phone, I know many people who believe that's a device for everyone.

For the people out there who buy more than one tablet, then it probably makes sense to have one that's "for the family," while you get the one you really want. Maybe you've got yourself an iPad Air, and the family tablet is an iPad mini. Or, the other way around, depending on your preference. And you could toss around the same scenario with Windows-based tablets, or Android devices. I can understand why you'd want that difference, especially if the tablet you use has any kind of connection to your work.

For the family that only buys one tablet, though, the conversation of having a multi-user mode makes perfect sense. After all, we've had them on our computers for just about as long as I can remember, with a password acting as a gateway between profiles, and the content therein. The experience can change quite a bit from one user to another, and having apps, or sites or whatever else only available to specific people is definitely a good thing. Android has had the option for tablets since Android 4.2, for the record.

I've thought about it a couple of times for my phone, when my daughters are using the device. It happens at random, really, so I don't consider turning off notifications, or even anything like a multi-user mode until it's too late. Both of my daughters are reading now, and one of them loves to read everything she can, so when she's playing a game and a text message pops in at the top of the display, well, you can see why that might be an issue.

It's not like I'm going to text everyone in my Contacts list and tell them not to message me for the next 10 minutes while I let my girls play their games.

But, having a quick way to flip into a specific profile for them, which would disable incoming notifications (unless it's a frequent caller, in case of an emergency like with Do Not Disturb), or even in-app purchases, would be pretty great. And I don't think that has to be something just for tablets, either. My girls are the reason I kept the tablet in the first place, but they still use my phone more often than not because we don't bring that bigger device with us.

There's word on the street that Google will include a multi-user mode in Android L, which is scheduled to release later this year, and I think I can get on board with something like that. I may forget about it in real case situations, but at least having the option would be something. Plus, when it works, that would be pretty great.

What do you think? Would you use a multi-user mode on your smartphone? Let me know!

[top image via Adamphones]

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