Apple to replace passcodes with image recognition in iOS 7?

A new patent application reveals that Apple is investigating alternatives to the traditional passcode unlock for its iOS devices

A newly published patent application indicates that that Apple is considering a new security feature for its future devices that would replace passcodes with an image recognition system.

The patent filing, which was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, covers a technology that would act as an alternative way to unlock a device, particularly for iPads and iPhones.

Users would be required to identify who is shown in a randomly selected photograph from the owner's contacts, by choosing the correct answer from a list of names. The user could either touch or click the name in the list, or use voice recognition to unlock the device, reports The Telegraph.

In the patent application, Apple explains that the passcode unlocking method used in its handheld devices "can be easily compromised".

"For example, a thief sitting on a bus may notice the four characters that an unsuspecting person entered on the person's smartphone," Apple described. "As another example, a thief may pick up a tablet computer in a public place and discover, based on finger prints on the display of the tablet computer, which characters were recently selected by the owner of the tablet computer."

Apple notes that users could also be asked to identify information relating to other images. As an example, Apple says that an image of the Golden Gate Bridge could be shown to prompt the iPhone owner to type the code '5341' because they were the last digits of the phone number of someone they met there.

"Thus, '5341' must be entered whenever that image is displayed as part of the authentication process," Apple added.

It is not yet known whether Apple will use the proposed technology in future devices, but it is possible that the company will introduce an image recognition feature in iOS 7, which is expected to launch towards the middle of 2013.

The emergence of the image recognition patent follows reports in January that Apple will be introducing a fingerprint sensor with its iPhone 6 that will ask as a new way of unlocking the device.

Speculation that Apple is working to add a fingerprint sensor into its products sparked in July 2011, when Apple acquired Delaware-based security systems company AuthenTec, which specialises in fingerprint scanners.

See also:

Three wishes for a better App Store

iOS 6.1 upgraders reporting big drop in battery life

Reports: Apple exploring watch-like devices

33 expert tips and tricks for iOS 6

Apple's rumoured iPhone 6 fingerprint sensor could spell trouble for competitors

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Appleconsumer electronicssmartphoneshardware systemsiPhonetabletsiPad

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ashleigh Allsopp

Macworld U.K.
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?