How to use iOS Single App Mode

Last updated May 2, 2022

This article describes the Single App Mode feature for iOS when using SimpleMDM. If you don’t already have a SimpleMDM account, you can start a free trial today.

What is Single App Mode?

Single App Mode (SAM), often referred to as “Single App Lock” is a feature for supervised devices that restricts the device to running only one app. While Single App Mode is enabled, the selected app will stay in the foreground.

This feature includes a number of additional options, such as the ability to:

  • Disable screen touch actions
  • Disable device rotation
  • Disable volume buttons
  • Disable ringer switch
  • Disable sleep/wake buton
  • Disable auto lock
  • Enable voice over
  • Enable zoom
  • Enable inverted colors
  • Enable assistive touch
  • Enable speak selection
  • Enable mono audio
  • Allow voice over adjustments
  • Allow zoom adjustments
  • Allow inverted colors adjustments
  • Allow assistive touch adjustments

What is Autonomous Single App Mode?

iOS can be configured to allow some apps to enable and disable Single App Mode on their own, under certain scenarios. This functionality is referred to as Autonomous Single App Mode (ASAM). Since this functionality makes the app responsible for enabling and disabling Single App Mode, apps need to be designed specifically to support ASAM.

As a SimpleMDM administrator, you are able to specify a whitelist of apps that are allowed to place themselves in single app mode.

How Do I Configure Single App Mode and Autonomous Single App Mode?

Single App Mode is enabled by the MDM administrator in the SimpleMDM interface. To enable Single App Mode and/or Autonomous Single App Mode, complete the following steps:

  1. Visit Configs > Profiles and create a Single App Lock profile.
  2. Visit Devices > Groups and select a device group to view the group details screen.
  3. From the “Configurations” tab, select the Single App Lock profile and click “Save”.

Once you compete these steps, your supervised devices will enter Single App Mode and/or grant specified apps with Autonomous Single App Mode permissions.

Comments (32)

Could single-app mode be added to the quarantine group? I want to make it so that if users install a particular app, I can essentially lock their devices so that they are unable to use them, and single-app mode seems like a reasonable way to do that.

To clarify, I want to give users unrestricted access to the App Store but move the device to the quarantine group and disable touch events if a prohibited app is installed (I.e. Puffin, which bypasses our servers).

Absolutely. Simply edit the Quarantine group settings and select the single app mode configuration. It will apply to any device that is moved to a “quarantine” state and will be removed once the violation is resolved.

A few side effects worth considering:
1. If single app mode is enabled when a device breaks a rule, it may make it difficult for the user of the device to resolve whatever rule is being broken.
2. If a device does not have the app used for single app mode installed, single app mode won’t enable.

Apps that have registered background services/tasks will continue to run in single app mode.

Are you sure those apps will be able sustain in Single App Mode? because, i have observed: those apps are being killed and are not able to woken up again when single app mode is activated. Even silent push notification does not help in waking up the application.

Hi Aman- you appear to be correct. We ran an additional test in our lab and had similar results.

In Single mode Application i am getting one issue: with Local Notification,
It is working fine in case when app is not in single mode.
But if app is in single mode then after sleep device notification alert is not coming. Please suggest if anyone have idea about that.

Is it possible to enable microphone in single app mode it seems to disable the microphone so users cant make calls inside a VOIP app

Yes. We recommend creating a device group specifically for use with single app mode. Then, using the API, you can move devices to and from this group to enable and disable single app mode.

For an iPad with an app in single app mode (public display kiosk) the screen dims after 2 minutes and then the app restarts, is is possible to not allow the restart until the screen is touched or the home button pressed. I want to prevent screen burn in as the iPad will be on permanent charge and enclosed in a case preventing access to the sleep/wake button.

If the app is automatically restarting, it is likely crashing. We recommend contacting the app developer for further instruction.

SimpleMDM and single app mode is working well with the exception that it appears that with the app in single app mode iOS prevents the alert from showing which asks the user for permission to access the camera. Specifically in the code `AVCaptureDevice.requestAccess(for: .video)` doesn’t display the alert: “[User] Would like to Access the Camera [Don’t allow] [OK]”
Is there an MDM setting that can grant an app access to the camera, or is there a code change I need to make?

Hi Nick! It sounds like you might be running into iOS-specific implementation issues. The behavior you are experiencing is determined by Apple. Please feel free to contact our support team however- we may be able to help with a workaround.

I solved the problem by using “Autonomous Single App Mode (ASAM)” rather than “Single App Mode (SAM)”. In “Autonomous Single App Mode” the app is responsible for putting the app into single app mode. So the app starts as normal (not in single app), I then request access to the camera which displays the alert to the user requesting camera access. Once the user has granted camera access permission I then put the application into single mode through a call to `UIAccessibility.requestGuidedAccessSession(enabled: true)` Ideally I would have liked to have had the MDM pre-authorised camera access but as far as I can tell this is not possible at the moment.

Thanks for sharing, Nick! Additionally, the more-recent “Privacy Preference” profile (sometimes referred to as “PPPC”) under Configs > Profiles may be worth keeping an eye on. It does allow automatic camera approval, however, as of today (Oct 2, 2019) it is only supported by macOS via Apple MDM specification. It is possible that Apple will build support into iOS in the future.

iOS (at least as of version 12) does not allow apps to be updated while they are in single app mode. This article details one option for working with this constraint.

The link you posted says that the app can be updated while in single app mode, as long as the iOS version is 11.2.5 and above.

So, I’m not sure about your response saying that with iOS 12, this doesn’t work.

Does an app downloaded from the App Store automatically update even when in single app mode (in iOS 12)? And the simplemdm configuration allows so?

Hi Long- I can certainly clarify. Generally speaking, when single app lock is enabled, apps cannot be updated. The exception to the rule, currently, as mentioned in the article, is that enterprise apps as of iOS version 11.2.5 can be updated while in single app mode.

When in SingleAppMode, will a locked-down iPad still be able to change to different WiFi networks that are loaded into the profile? Currently have some iPads that are placed in SAM on one WiFi network, and then they did not pickup on the Wifi network at the destination (even though that WiFi Profile is loaded). Trying to figure out if this is a SAM issue, WiFi, or what…

Hi Justin- We tested this in our lab using iOS 13.1 and did see the device correctly switch between WiFi networks, configured via MDM, with single app mode enabled. If you run into further issues, I suggest contacting support so that we can review your account.

Can i set single app mode to continuously and automatically launch between 2 different apps based on the time of day? Or can i at least manually, remotely, choose what app is loaded in single app mode and remotely launch different apps for public kiosk at different times as i choose?

Hi Charles- You might consider creating two device groups; each one configured to set single app mode for a different app. Then, using our API, you can move the device between these two groups depending upon the time of day. Our support channel is happy to help you with this so feel free to contact them if you’d like to pursue this option and have questions.

Hi Marc- Our understanding is that third party keyboards are not affected by single app mode and should continue to function.

does single app mode allow for the app to automatically accept an update promtless without user interaction?

App Store (and VPP) apps running in Single App Mode will still display a prompt and require user interaction in order to be updated. This is a current limitation of Apple’s MDM spec.

The only exception to this is for enterprise (custom) apps, which can be updated while in Single App Mode without user interaction.

I enrolled an iPad with a link but it won’t enter into Single App Mode.
Does enrolling with a link have limited capabilities?

Enrollment by link does not enable Supervised Mode. Apple requires Supervised Mode to be enabled on iOS devices in order for Single App Mode to work via MDM. I would check your device to make sure it is supervised, and if not, re-enroll it using Apple Configurator or Automated Enrollment.

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