“Apple picking”, as New York law enforcers called the spate of iPhone theft, is now a thing of the past. Well, at least mostly, partly thanks to Apple‘s strong stance on encryption and locking down stolen phones. But there might be times when it isn’t your iPhone that is in danger but you yourself. Presuming you still have some presence of mind, and an iPhone of the future, you might be able to not only lock down your phone but also discretely call for help, thanks to a recent patent that Apple filed.
Simply called “FINGERPRINT ACTIVATION OF A PANIC MODE OF OPERATION FOR A MOBILE DEVICE”, the patent belies the ingenuity of the idea. At the present, Apple allows you to register different fingerprints for unlocking your device. What this patent proposes is the reverse, assigning a “secret” fingerprint that will instead lock down the phone, preventing anyone from using it, and do other things like sending an emergency message, recording surrounding audio, or taking a picture.
This is the Panic Mode being described, and its use is for something you hope will never happen. It’s for those instances when you find yourself in trouble, either kidnapped or held hostage or had your home broken into. Perhaps you are forced to unlock your iPhone or perhaps you just need a quiet and discreet way to make a call for help. The Panic Mode covers all those cases. At least in theory. It’s like some of the anti-theft features third party software implement, except it’s all automatic and triggered by a secret fingerprint.
The patent does have one other idea that isn’t as drastic. Apple envisions that someday you will also be able to assign a finger to a specific function or app so that unlocking the iPhone using that finger would immediately take you to the app, no more tapping around required. It could be handing for jumping into the phone or messages app instantly.
That said, this is simply a patent filing, so there’s not assurance that it will be implemented soon, if at all. But considering how relatively simpler it is to implement, at least compared to more ambitious, sometimes insane, patents, we could be seeing this feature sooner rather than later.