As Android phones continue to outsell iPhones, Apple has been apparently getting some inspiration from Google's mobile OS. A series of screenshots received by 9 To 5 Mac show Apple is using internally a version of the iOS lock screen with the gesture-based lock system found on Android phones.
The iOS gesture-based lock screen seems to work similarly to the dots unlock screen on Android. So instead of having to type in a password or a four-digit code, the user has to input a pattern previously defined and customized to unlock the phone. The same method is used for Android's vanilla (non-manufacturer customized) lock screen.
According to 9 To 5 Mac's unnamed source, Apple has already deployed this new lock screen for use internally in the staff-only Apple Connect app for iPhones. There is no word though on whether this feature will make it to consumers, but the report mentions that Apple plans to use this screen lock method inside other internal apps, like the one the company's retail store employees use.
One of the main reasons the dots screen lock won't ever make it into a public iOS release, 9 To 5 Mac speculates, is because Google probably owns the patent on this system, making it unlikely that the company would license it to its most bitter competitor.
The gesture-based lock screen, made popular by Google Android phones, is generally seen as more secure than the generic password of four-digit screen locks. However, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found (PDF) that the dots lock screen can be susceptible to "smudge attacks," due to the oily residues left by fingers on the screen being able to reveal the lock pattern. An easy solution to avoid this is to simply keep the phone's screen clean.