Future releases of iOS may offer a new means by which you can secure your phone or tablet, replacing a PIN or any other static, unchanging code with a short little interrogation process, potentially thwarting attackers who may have been able to observe you unlocking your phone earlier.
The patent describes a system where the phone’s lock screen presents you with a visual prompt, which you are then forced to identify. Maybe it could be a picture of a friend, a pet, or even an object like your best friend’s bicycle. In order to unlock the phone, you’d have to correctly identify the picture from a list of options. Presumably, you’d easily be able to meet any of these challenges, while a stranger would be guessing blind. By not presenting the same images each time, Apple would reduce an attacker’s ability to beat the system by watching you perform an unlock.
As Unwired View points out, this idea isn’t quite new, with Facebook having implemented a similar system itself. We’re also not sure how much security it might offer against more casual attacks, where instead of a thief snatching your iPhone and making off with it, a roommate might be trying to snoop on what you’ve been doing with your iPad – people with intimate knowledge of your life might easily be able to pass these tests.
Still, it’s an interesting idea, and while there’s no guarantee just because it’s patented, Apple might very well end up implementing it at some future date.