Become a MacRumors Supporter for $25/year with no ads, private forums, and more!
  • Did you order new AirTags? We've opened a dedicated AirTags forum.

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
52,418
14,123



The United States Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent application initially filed by Apple in May of 2014, describing a method for users to designate a specific finger to unlock an iPhone with using Touch ID, which would then cause the iPhone to enter a "panic mode" (via Business Insider). The mode could then tell the iPhone to completely lock down, limiting access to personal data if a user is being forced to unlock their iPhone.

Currently, Apple allows users to enter up to five different fingerprints to unlock an iPhone, so users would just have to designate which is the "emergency" print in the Touch ID settings menu. Apple's patent describes a situation in which a thief attempts to rob someone's iPhone from them to gain access to their personal and private data stored within, and the user being robbed quickly placing the panic mode finger on Touch ID so the thief can't access any data.

panic-mode-patent-iphone-800x513.jpg

The company is going one step further with the patent application, however, describing a way in which the activation of panic mode turns on the iPhone's camera and microphone to capture a robbery or crime as it happens and sending all the data to both a user's iCloud account and possibly even local police. Another section of the patent details a possible way for the device in panic mode to act as a beacon, alerting nearby devices (other iPhones, computers, etc) to a possible crime in their vicinity so they can alert the authorities and come to the panic mode activator's aid.
In some embodiments, the mobile device 104 may be activated into the panic mode in emergency situations to act as a beacon. If there is a nearby device, the nearby other device (e.g., a PDA carried by another person, a computer in an automobile, etc.) can be alerted with an alarm so that the user of the other device might come to the aid of the user initiating the panic mode.

For example, triggering the panic mode can send out a signal on multiple frequencies, channels, links, etc., to provide location information relative to other devices so that users of the other devices can provide assistance. Furthermore, as discussed in more detail below, the panic mode may include a locator function that uses, for example, global positioning systems (GPS) and/or cellular location systems to provide the location of the mobile device 104 to emergency response providers.
The new patent -- inventor credit going to Karthik Sudhir -- also describes more basic functions of the feature, including a straight-forward klaxon that blares until a user confirms that they're safe and even a way for Touch ID users to set up specific apps to open immediately when they unlock the iPhone with specific fingers. As with all other patents, "panic mode" is far from confirmed and may never even make it into a future version of the iPhone, but it remains an interesting glimpse into the internal discussions at Apple regarding the company's possible future products.

Article Link: Apple Patents Touch ID 'Panic Mode' for Instant Access to Emergency Services
 

dontwalkhand

macrumors 603
Jul 5, 2007
5,630
1,791
Phoenix, AZ
If Apple advertises the feature wouldn't the criminal know about this and then do what they can to prevent you from using such a mode?
 
Comment

jayducharme

macrumors 68040
Jun 22, 2006
3,974
4,075
The thick of it
This is a great idea. But I'm wondering how it well it would actually work in a panic situation. You wouldn't want to use a common finger that you normally use to open the device. For instance, I've set four different fingerprints and usually use all of them during the course of a day, depending on how I'm holding the phone. (No "You're holding it wrong" jokes, please...) But having it triggered by a different finger might make it more awkward to use. Then again, I'm probably a special case; I assume most people have just one or two prints set to open their phones.
 
Comment

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,277
Really good idea. If this was to be integrated into iCloud Find my iPhone that would be even better for tracking and the like. Plus it means that if somebody drunkenly tries to unlock using their panic finger, they'd quickly be able to sort out the mess without having to explain the situation to the police.
 
Comment

Pakaku

macrumors 68020
Aug 29, 2009
2,404
2,729
You'll really feel the panic when you try to use 'panic mode' when your iPhone's battery dies.
Solution: Have the iPhone keep a limited reserve amount of battery power, and shut off before it reaches said reserve. Then you'd always have that battery power around for emergency-services.
 
Comment

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,277
If Apple advertises the feature wouldn't the criminal know about this and then do what they can to prevent you from using such a mode?

All criminals know that modern cars have central locking. Doesn't stop the fact that additional protection and security. If security measures like this help in just 1% of cases, that's 1% that wouldn't have been safe beforehand. Still a victory IMHO, you can never do enough to stop thieves.
 
Comment

antiprotest

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2010
1,493
525
You'll really feel the panic when you try to use 'panic mode' when your iPhone's battery dies.

Some people react in the strangest way.

I remember when I was a kid I told my mother about my bike's u-lock and she said, "What if someone just breaks the lock?" I was talking to another person about locking a car and he said, "What if someone smashes the window?" Later, when I was talking to someone about having a password on the computer, he said, "What if someone just guesses the password?"

Well, the same thing that happens when the earth explodes and destroys everything -- the feature would not work.

But what if someone doesn't break the lock? What if someone doesn't smash the window? What if someone doesn't guess the password?

What if the person faints before he could activate this feature? What if the other guy grabs the phone before you can activate this feature?

But what if Apple doesn't put in this feature at all? What if you don't use a bike lock? What if you don't lock your car? What if you don't set a password?

What if the battery doesn't die?
 
Comment

antiprotest

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2010
1,493
525
If Apple advertises the feature wouldn't the criminal know about this and then do what they can to prevent you from using such a mode?

Yes, so I guess the feature shouldn't exist at all.

Also, what if your special finger suddenly falls off the moment before you try to use it to activate this feature? What would you do then? Apple really needs to rethink this.
 
  • Like
Reactions: aarond12 and TimSHB
Comment

antiprotest

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2010
1,493
525
If we never created new things or features just because someone may circumvent them, we'd never make any progress.

I'll take anything I can get.

But what if a bunch of fire ants suddenly rush up your body and bite that special finger you use to activate the feature?

What if a meteor falls to the ground just as you need to activate it, and a shred of space rock flies by and cuts the tip of that particular finger you need?!
 
Comment

2457282

Suspended
Dec 6, 2012
3,327
3,014
If Apple advertises the feature wouldn't the criminal know about this and then do what they can to prevent you from using such a mode?
I think it would simply discourage the criminal. If I get the article correctly, I can designate a finger to trigger the panic, but one of the features is that it unlock only part of the phone. So a robber telling you to unlock the phone before handing it over will think you did as requested while the alarm is going off and recording everything. As a robber how would you know if they used the panic finger or not?

Personally my panic finger would be the middle finger. It would just be poetic.
 
Comment

doctor-don

macrumors 68000
Dec 26, 2008
1,586
316
Georgia USA
Just have the phone send a locator signal and prevent the phone from turning off completely when it is activated by that emergency finger OR when someone else attempts to use the phone. Of course, one would have to keep family members (children) from getting their hands on the phone. No klaxon horn, please.
 
Comment

tobefirst

macrumors 601
Jan 24, 2005
4,243
1,508
St. Louis, MO
From what I have heard, fingerprints aren't handled the same way a password is under the law. A law enforcement officer cannot force you to give up your password, but he/she can require you to give up your finger. In this specific instance, a fingerprint is not as secure as a password. Apple's solution here may be a way around that, allowing a citizen to quickly put their phone in a mode that isn't unlock able by a normal fingerprint and thus needs to be unlocked using a separate password, which can't be required by LEO. This would fit in nicely with Apple's stance that they cannot (and will not) give up information that is stored on someone's phone.
 
Comment

2457282

Suspended
Dec 6, 2012
3,327
3,014
Some people react in the strangest way.

I remember when I was a kid I told my mother about my bike's u-lock and she said, "What if someone just breaks the lock?" I was talking to another person about locking a car and he said, "What if someone smashes the window?" Later, when I was talking to someone about having a password on the computer, he said, "What if someone just guesses the password?"

Well, the same thing that happens when the earth explodes and destroys everything -- the feature would not work.

But what if someone doesn't break the lock? What if someone doesn't smash the window? What if someone doesn't guess the password?

What if the person faints before he could activate this feature? What if the other guy grabs the phone before you can activate this feature?

But what if Apple doesn't put in this feature at all? What if you don't use a bike lock? What if you don't lock your car? What if you don't set a password?

What if the battery doesn't die?

Yes, so I guess the feature shouldn't exist at all.

Also, what if your special finger suddenly falls off the moment before you try to use it to activate this feature? What would you do then? Apple really needs to rethink this.

But what if a bunch of fire ants suddenly rush up your body and bite that special finger you use to activate the feature?

What if a meteor falls to the ground just as you need to activate it, and a shred of space rock flies by and cuts the tip of that particular finger you need?!

Wow, I totally get the sarcasm although maybe taken a little too far. I can see me at a party where after a few drinks, I make a silly comment and then the rest of the night you are there just going after me. I mean, I get it. My comment was silly, let move on. In any case, we should have two panic fingers so that if any of your scenarios happen, we have a back up finger. :p:D:rolleyes::);)
 
Comment

antiprotest

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2010
1,493
525
Wow, I totally get the sarcasm although maybe taken a little too far. I can see me at a party where after a few drinks, I make a silly comment and then the rest of the night you are there just going after me. I mean, I get it. My comment was silly, let move on. In any case, we should have two panic fingers so that if any of your scenarios happen, we have a back up finger. :p:D:rolleyes::);)

Although I have never tried it, some people claim that Touch ID works with the penis. That might be the best choice. I mean, if that falls off, you might not care about the phone anyway.
 
Comment

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,123
5,091
If Apple advertises the feature wouldn't the criminal know about this and then do what they can to prevent you from using such a mode?

Such as not committing a crime against you? Yes, that's the idea.

The thing I wonder is how will you know that panic mode is activated? I feel like doing something so obvious that the criminal knows would be bad - they might make an irrational choice and try to harm you as revenge for your activating panic mode. At the same time, if it's too unobvious you might accidentally do it and not realize it until the cops arrive.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ardent73
Comment

2457282

Suspended
Dec 6, 2012
3,327
3,014
Although I have never tried it, some people claim that Touch ID works with the penis. That might be the best choice. I mean, if that falls off, you might not care about the phone anyway.
Based on your avatar I just assumed yours had fallen off at birth. :D
 
  • Like
Reactions: aarond12
Comment

jclardy

macrumors 68040
Oct 6, 2008
3,569
2,732
How is a person supposed to know that your ring finger, or whichever you choose, is the designated emergency finger?
They would probably know because you fumbling around trying to use your pinky to unlock the phone.

The only issue I see with this is how do you disable it? Maybe a silent alarm mode would be better - the phone looks like it unlocks but is actually in panic mode and data is still locked down.
 
Comment

acctman

macrumors 65816
Oct 26, 2012
1,188
748
Georgia
Girlfriend wants to use your phone... "Panic Mode"..

thumb and index fingers are the most common used fingers for unlocking. Using you middle and index finger would be a little bit more secure
 
  • Like
Reactions: Cisco_Kid
Comment

JosephAW

macrumors 68040
May 14, 2012
3,814
4,542
I use "Upload Cam" to take photos and automatically upload them to the cloud if I'm about to meet someone for a Craigslist translation. It works for videos too but it's not streamlined.
 
Comment
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.