April 17, 2014
On Wednesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published two new Apple patent applications. The documents suggest Cupertino was once toying with the idea of bringing a gesture-based unlocking feature to iOS. Both patents are titled “Gesture entry techniques.” Together, they form the basis of a new feature which uses patterns and illuminated discs, and not the entry of a PIN or password, to unlock a mobile device. Android already offers a gesture-based unlocking feature. The tool being proposed by Apple, however, is noticeably more advanced. In the iOS version, users can rearrange and change the size of the graphical elements. Invisible dots or hot areas in the unlock path are also possible. Velocity and/or acceleration of the finger when moving across the touch-sensitive display may also constitute part of the gesture. Combined, these elements are said to create a better system in which to secure a mobile device. While this type of unlocking system appears sound, we don’t expect to see it show up on future iOS devices. Instead, it looks like Apple is committed to improving Touch ID, the fingerprint authentication technology on the iPhone 5s, which is expected to make the jump to more iOS devices this year. The patent applications are 20140109010 and 20140109018. Both were filed in 2012.