Apple has filed a patent for a method to secretly enter “panic mode” on an iPhone when it’s unlocked with a specific finger. That could mean that the phone locks out personal information or completely resets the device.
The Apple patent, dated May 5 2014, includes lots of different potential functions for panic mode. Basically it’s a system to lock down the phone if a user is forced to unlock it with their fingerprint.
Modern iPhones use a system called TouchID that lets users unlock the phones by holding down their finger on the home button. Users can add multiple fingerprints to the phone’s software — but Apple suggests adding a secret finger that, when used to unlock the phone, makes it enter panic mode.
Apple says that when an iPhone is unlocked using a “panic finger,” the iPhone realises that the user is in “distress” and limits access to personal data. Apple’s patent suggests that this mode would be useful for emergency situations or if someone is trying to steal the iPhone.
The panic mode could also be used to capture photographs or video of a thief who is trying to steal an iPhone. Apple says that the iPhone could then securely send those files over the internet to the user’s iCloud account, and could then be turned over to the police. Apple also mentions that panic mode could trigger the iPhone’s microphone, and the user could describe the person who is attacking them. That’s just like in the movie “Taken”:
Other potential functions of panic mode outlined in the patent include a loud alarm that won’t stop until the user confirms they’re safe, or a distress signal sent to nearby iPhones.
There’s also an intriguing system outlined in the patent that would let iPhone users quickly jump to specific applications when a certain finger is used to unlock the phone. Here’s how the Apple patent explains it:
Depending on the fingerprint that was captured, a particular action may be carried out when the device is unlocked. In one example, a fingerprint of an index finger may indicate that a call is to be placed. When the fingerprint of the user’s index finger is captured, when the mobile device is unlocked, a telephone application may be launched to allow the user to place a call after the mobile device has been unlocked.
Apple has been updating its software to make it easier to jump to commonly used apps and functions. The iPhone 6S included a feature named 3D Touch that let users press on the phone screen to quickly jump to functions within apps. And the company’s iOS 9 mobile operating system included Siri app suggestions that provide a list of commonly used apps.
Of course, just because Apple has patented a system for a panic mode on iPhones doesn’t mean that it’s actually going to be included in a future iPhone. The company often patents different hardware and software products as a form of marketing, and also to stop rival companies launching the same products.
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