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Getting started with 'User Accounts' on Android 5.0 Lollipop

Even a smartphone running Google's latest mobile operating system now offers multiple user accounts.

Phones
A Nexus 9 with multiple user accounts available on the lock screen. Jason Cipriani/CNET

With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google is adding true multi-user support for tablets and smartphones alike.

When Google released Android 4.2 it included multiple user accounts for tablets; however, smartphone users were left in the cold. (In Google's defense, sharing a smartphone is far less likely than a tablet).

This has now changed.

android-lollipop-5-user-accounts.jpg
The Users settings screen on a Nexus 9. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

There are three different types of user accounts:

  • A Guest account is similar to using Chrome's Incognito mode. Any information or data transmitted during a session is only temporarily stored. Each time you enter Guest mode, you're asked if you want to start fresh or continue your last Guest session.
  • A Profile account is ideal for parents who want to provide limited access to apps and services to children. When setting up a Profile account you're able to enable (or disable) apps and services such as Google search.
  • A User account provides full access to apps and services on the device. A User can download and install apps, set wallpapers and arrange home screens without altering other accounts. Any changes to system settings, such as adding a Wi-Fi network, will be applied to all other users accounts on the device.

You can access multi-user settings two different ways. The first is by launching the Settings app and selecting Users from the list of options. The other method requires you to tap on the user icon when viewing the Quick Settings shade. The latter method also provides a method for quickly switching between accounts from anywhere on the device, including the lock screen.

The different account types make it possible to share any Android device running Lollipop with a wide variety of people without putting your personal data at risk.

From the occasional friend needing to borrow a device, to sharing a tablet with multiple family members - Android 5.0 Lollipop seems to have gotten it right.

For more Lollipop tips, please see CNET How To's guide to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

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