iOS 6 preview: Guided Access and single-app mode

iOS 6 preview: Guided Access and single-app mode

Something that Apple absolutely does not get enough credit for is their longstanding -- and outstanding -- support for accessibility features, and iOS 6 is no exception. To the already impressive list of accessibility features, Apple is adding Guided Access, a way to lock the iPad into a single app, to help people with autism or similar challenges work independently, without having to worry about accidentally closing an app. It also provides single-app mode functionality for everyone, which makes the iPad far more useful for everything from school tests to mall kiosks.

Here's how Apple describes accessibility and Guided Access in iOS 6:

iOS 6 comes with even more features to make it easier for people with vision, hearing, learning, and mobility disabilities to get the most from their iOS devices. Guided Access helps students with disabilities such as autism remain on task and focused on content. It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen. VoiceOver, the revolutionary screen reader for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience.

And here's what they've shown off of it so far:

  • Even dedicated, focused apps can have buttons or controls that, if unintentionally triggered, can alter app behavior or even exit the app completely.

  • By activating Guided Access, you can toggle off hardware buttons like the Home button, touch controls completely, or shake controls.

  • You can also selectively disable only certain controls by circling them with your finger.

  • iOS will then disable those controls so they can no longer be triggered in-app.

  • With the Home button disabled, Guided Access also becomes single-app mode. So, for example, a school could provide exams on an iPad without having to worry about students leaving the app, looking up the answers on Safari, and then cheating on the test.

  • Beyond schools, it could serve as a kiosk-mode for museums, stores, restaurants, and numerous other types of businesses and institutions.

Taken by itself, Guided Access is another in a long line of excellent accessibilities features for iOS, in this case the iPad in particular. Combined with single-app, or kiosk-mode, it becomes a powerful tool for any school, business, or institution. It lets them provide highly specific applications, in highly controlled environments, keeping things simple yet still powerful for users and customers.

It's not protected access mode or guest mode, but it's important and it's there.

iOS 6 is scheduled for release this fall, perhaps as soon as September 19. For more on iOS 6, check out:

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iOS 6 preview: Guided Access and single-app mode


Can you provide a little more detail on single-app mode? This post is still a little vague about the specifics, and for those who haven't actually used iOS 6 the following questions are left unanswered:
-With the home button disabled, how do you exit from single app mode?
-Can you specify single-app mode settings based on specific apps, or is it applied generally when activated?

Guided access is accessed by triple-clicking the home button, which then brings up the screen with options to disable controls, touch, motion, and the home button. You can also set a passcode that needs to be entered if someone triple-clicks the home button while in guided access mode.

I'm thinking of trying to put some iPads in a children's museum, running an app I've been working on. This Guided Access mode sounds good, but I'm wondering, will it also restart the app in the (hopefully rare) event that the app crashes? I suspect not, but it sure would be handy. Although my app is doing fairly well in testing now, leaving it running for hours/days at a time, with kids working their magic on it is quite an endurance test for an app!