How To Use Kiosk Mode On Your iPad

Posted by Ryan Raubenheimer on

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Nifty little information kiosks are popping up everywhere - from the local bank to cafés and on the sales floor of your favourite fashion retailer.

Using only a mobile device and stand, they are affordable and easy to set up while offering consumers the ability to quickly interact with your brand, find the information they need, and even make a purchase.

By and large, iPad is the preferred device to cater to this ever-increasing trend. So here's a quick rundown of how to turn your garden variety iPad into a highly specialised kiosk.

What do you want it to do?

Chances are you're trying to engage your customers via a kiosk in one of two ways - either providing an iPad for their convenience while they use your shop/service, or you want them to navigate a specific app for information and as a selling tool.

If it's the first option in situations like cafés where your kiosk is designed to encourage the consumer to stay, then being able to switch from downloaded apps to Safari and back is a good thing.

But if it's the latter you're probably not expecting them to have full access to your suite of iPad apps, files and settings. You want to point them in a single direction and have them stay there.

This also applies if you're using your iPad as a mobile Point of Sale. You want your staff to be able to quickly get into your mPOS app and have it be the only thing immediately available.

As Apple are pretty good at catering to anticipated uses of their highly popular device, you have two means at your disposal to limit staff or customer access and take them where you want to go. Here's how to do it...

Option 1 - Quick and easy via iPad settings

If you're looking for a quick and simple solution that you can set up and remove at your discretion then using Guided Access is probably the most effective way.

In this instance, the magic happens in the settings section of your iPad. Originally intended for teachers looking to guard educational apps against wandering little fingers, it works like this...

  1. Go into the settings section of your iPad.
  2. Head into General > Accessibility > scroll to the bottom for Guided Access and turn this feature on.
  3. You now have a selection of controls at your disposal.
  4. First set a passcode (it can be the same or different to your device's main code) or select Touch ID. This means only people with authorisation via the code or fingerprint are able to leave the app that you're about to select.
  5. Now, using the home button, bring up your standard iPad screen and find the app you're looking to lock your iPad to.
  6. Launch the app and enter Guided Access by hitting the home button three times in quick succession.
  7. This brings up your app's primary screen with Guided Access features available at the bottom, which you can use to configure the app to your liking.
  8. By default the sleep/wake button will be disabled and the touch screen will remain on.
  9. Once you have configured the app with your preferences, select Start in the top right corner.
  10. The app will now run continuously and users without passcode access will not be able to switch to any other area of your iPad.
  11. If you wish to allow your device to sleep when not in use, enable the sleep/wake function during Guided Access configuration of the device. Users will not be required to enter a passcode when they wake the device.

The benefits

This is a pretty good temporary option that features minimum effort and fuss to shift your device into kiosk mode. Once you're done with an app, you can triple click on the home button again, enter the passcode or use your fingerprint to regain full access to all the wonders of your iPad.

The downside

It's not fool proof. Feasibly anyone who knows or can guess your password can exit the app. It also looks a bit more budget, with Apple kindly notifying all and sundry that you're in Guided App Mode and that they can click the home button three times to start the process of exiting.

Option 2 - A bit more complicated via external access

The second option uses Single App Mode via Supervised Mode, which is set up externally. It's a little more complicated but arguably produces a more professional, permanent result. This choice is particularly appropriate if the device will always be utilised to access one specific app.

It can also be set up via a mobile device management (MDM) server if your business or corporation uses this to manage mobile devices.

Otherwise, it goes like this...

  1. First you'll need to download and install Apple Configurator to your Mac (this program only works on Macs).
  2. Use Apple Configurator to select your iPad and put it into Supervised Mode.
  3. With your iPad connected to your Mac via USB cable, select the device in Apple Configurator.
  4. Select Actions > Advanced > Start Single App Mode.
  5. A list of apps available on your iPad will appear.
  6. Select the app you want your iPad to continuously run.
  7. You will also have options of disabling functions like sleep/wake mode, touch screen etc.
  8. Once you're done configuring the functions, click Select App and your iPad will be locked to this program only.
  9. To remove Single App Mode, you'll need to reconnect your iPad to your Mac, go into Apple Configurator, select your iPad and work through Actions > Advanced > and Stop Single App Mode.

The benefits

This truly locks your iPad to one app without the potential for anyone with the code to exit. It's a great solution for more permanent use of an app and makes it appear professional and seamless.

The downside

Well for start you need a Mac - nice to have but we're not all graced with an endless suite of Apple hardware. It's also a bit fiddlier to set-up and disable. So if there's a chance you may want to quickly "pop into" another program or use the internet, it's probably not the ideal choice.

Other considerations

If you're using your iPad as a kiosk there are a few other items to bear in mind. These include secure stands or enclosures to guard against theft and damage, and access to a power supply so that nifty kiosk doesn't run out of grunt regardless of what mode or app you're in.

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