Disable Single App Mode on Devices Without Internet

Last updated April 6, 2022

Is your device stuck in single app mode? Read this article to learn how to get out of and disable single app mode.

Single app mode (SAM), also known as “single app lock”, forces an iOS device to only display a single app and prevents a user from exiting it. Single app mode is popular in situations where an iPad or iPhone is on display and is acting as a digital kiosk. It is also commonly used in situations where a device is intended for one use only, like a cash register.

Note: A different but similar mode called “Guided access” is often confused with single app mode. Guided access is a feature that is configured on the device itself. Single app mode is configured instead through SimpleMDM.

Using SimpleMDM, devices can be configured for single app lock wirelessly. This allows an administrator to place multiple devices in single app mode from the SimpleMDM web admin interface. The administrator is also able to disable single app mode from the web interface, if needed.

Problems arise when devices lose internet. A device will stay in single app lock without internet, however the administrator will not be able to disable single app mode from within SimpleMDM. Without internet, the device cannot receive the command to disable single app lock.

If it is not possible to regain an internet connection the device, there are luckily two other options. Follow either of these processes to disable single app mode.

Regain Internet and Disable SAM via MDM

macOS can optionally share its internet connection using a USB connection. For a device that has lost internet due to a WiFi change, providing internet via USB will allow it to regain contact with the MDM for further configuration.

Take the following steps to enable internet sharing to the iOS device.

  1. Connect the iOS device to your macOS device via USB.
  2. On a macOS device, go to System Preferences and select “Sharing”.
  3. Select the “Internet Sharing” service and configure your device to share its internet connection via USB.
  4. Enable the Internet Sharing service.
  5. Once the device has internet, you may disable SAM from the MDM or add additional WiFi configurations so that the device has wireless internet access again.

Alternatively, dongle devices exist that support connecting ethernet directly to an iOS device.

Unenroll and Remove SAM using Apple Configurator

This option removes the MDM enrollment from the device, and in doing so, removes the single app lock configuration. This is more of a “nuke” option than anything, and is less preferable than the method mentioned above as the device will need to be re-enrolled with MDM, possibly using DEP, which requires wiping the device.

  1. Install Apple Configurator to a macOS system.
  2. Connect the iOS device to the computer using a lighting to USB connector.
  3. Open the Apple Configurator application on macOS.
  4. A window will appear and your device should be shown. Control-Click on the device, select “Remove”, and then “Profiles”.
  5. Select the profile named “SimpleMDM” and delete it.

This will remove the SimpleMDM enrollment from the device and exit single app mode as a result.disable single app mode

Comments (4)

Great trick! Another option (if it’s supported by the app you are using) is Autonomous Single App Mode, which allows the Single App Mode to be started and ended by the app itself (and therefore can be turned off locally even if WiFi is dropped).

Another one of our users solved this by creating a new wired internet connection to the device using an Apple powered USB camera adapter and Ethernet dongle.

While it does require specific dongles to work, it is a less time-consuming approach that doesn’t require re-enrolling in MDM.

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