Apple's Multi-User Face Recognition Plans for iPad Revealed in Patent


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Back when the iPad was still just a rumor, the Wall Street Journal reported that one of the features that Apple had been working on with their upcoming tablet was the ability to recognize users by face.
One person familiar with the matter said Apple has put significant resources into designing and programming the device so that it is intuitive to share. This person said Apple has experimented with the ability to leave virtual sticky notes on the device and for the gadget to automatically recognize individuals via a built-in camera. It is unclear whether these features will be included at launch.
The effort was part of Apple's efforts to make their new tablet a multi-user device. Facial recognition, however, never made it into the iPad, but a newly published patent application gives us insight into this feature that didn't make it into the shipping product.

Screenshot via PatentlyApple
AppleInsider notes that the new patent application offers a way for multiple users to share a device:
The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user's face.
The face detection system reportedly could be a low-power system that is always active, allowing face detection to be the primary method to unlock your iOS device. Apple's patent was filed in June, 2010, soon after the first iPad was introduced.

Face recognition as a security measure, however, has some possible flaws. Google's Android recently introduced a Face Unlock feature as well, but reports have suggested it can be fooled by a photograph of the user.

Article Link: Apple's Multi-User Face Recognition Plans for iPad Revealed in Patent


macrumors regular
Jun 15, 2011
Certainly a useful feature. I could see me using it but I think it would be a bit more useful on computers with more than one user.


macrumors 65816
Jan 29, 2003
A multi-user function on the iPad would be nice - you may want to let your kids use the iPad, but not (for example) get into your email.

Whether it is facial recognition or not, something would be nice to have.


macrumors 603
Feb 4, 2004
Florida Resident
I like having the ability to support multiple accounts on an iPad. I hope they still allow passwords since the camera security is easy to get around. Unless it isn't really intended as a security feature more than a convenience feature of switching profiles.


macrumors 68020
Oct 2, 2007
Crazy but Cool idea for sure.

Imagine letting your child pick it up and all the settings/apps changed for him/her.
you grab it and all your apps are on the front most screen.

downside to Apple is selling less devices per family. Upside...maybe a hesitant family would purchase one...then seeing it caught over, just buy multiple ones.

and Using multiple iPads could mean picking up any iPad and it works for you or a family member that is "subscribed" to the Family iTunes log in.


macrumors 6502
May 3, 2011
Irvine, California
Ugh.... please no face nonsense unless you can really, really, really do it well. I really don't like this idea. Didn't like it on Droid, don't like it on iPhone.


macrumors G3
Mar 20, 2007
I want user accounts on the iPad, and this may be part of that.

What would happen if you showed it a photo of someone else?


macrumors 65816
Jan 9, 2007
They could easily add multi-user capabilities now... but I don't think they will.

They would rather you buy a iPad/iPhone for every member of the family.


macrumors 6502
Jun 15, 2007
I love it when any of these patent "discoveries" come out.

The best part is how they get Randall Munroe of XKCD to doodle all of their drawings. Priceless. /s



macrumors regular
Sep 9, 2007
Face recognition's flaws

Google's Android recently introduced a Face Unlock feature as well, but reports have suggested it can be fooled by a photograph of the user.

And this is why they need to license my new patent, Buttock Recognition™.

Unless you're a flasher, or one of those guys who likes photocopying his butt at Christmas parties, it's a lot safer. Although admittedly, it's largely security by obscurity...


macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
Central U.S.
I actually may have thought of this before Apple. Why didn't I patent it!

Something like this would be perfect for families. My mom doesn't even use the email app (just uses Safari to login) because my little sister uses it and likes to snoop. When you press the sleep/wake, home button or open the smart cover it could activate the facial recognition. Put in your password and if it matches your face (auto substituting as username) then it configures the iPad once unlocked. Email accounts can be enabled/disabled on the fly, wallpapers switched, apps hidden, shown and reorganized according to user preference. iCloud accounts can be flipped around. But I'd expect something like this to be a bit memory intensive to achieve, so it's likely that only something like the iPad 3 or later with 1GB of ram would see this in the update. But Apple occasionally surprises. But this would be a welcome change. My wife and I share an iPad, but she feels like its not really "hers" because I have the wallpaper, iCloud, and apps organized how I want it. The bookmarks also sync from my Mac so she doesnt even have those. iCloud combined with this user account reconfiguring could be really useful. I think about it less as a security issue and more about convenience and enhanced usability.


macrumors 68000
Jul 4, 2004
I wonder how Apple will perfect this technology, it sounded like an interesting idea when Alienware and some android phones started to incorporate it.

The problem is that, at least with the android phone, a picture of that person is as good as that person having their face there to unlock the phone.

Unless it's just a feature designed for convenience and not as much for security.

I'm waiting for an opportunity to see if Alienware has done anything to combat people gaining access via a picture of the computers owner.


macrumors G3
Sep 15, 2011
Vilano Beach, FL
Like a few posted above, the FR isn't the most important thing about this to me, it's the idea of multiple users/accounts.

Separate settings/data for things like calendar, email, (discreet iCloud configurations) some configuration like the restriction option for controlling apps usable by each account, etc.

I know the single user model potentially creates more sales of devices, but I know at least two families who would buy if they could share the device with discreet accounts/user data.


macrumors 65816
Sep 29, 2006
Even if they don't use face recognition, but a simple select user option like the new Facebook for iPad has would be a start. They need a way to change all account information / disable apps with certain users. I don't let anyone borrow my iPad because there are too many apps that you can't password protect that have important data. I would not think it would be hard with all the sandboxing and data separation that they can just point all the apps to a different data location behind the scenes based on the login information.


macrumors 68040
Oct 15, 2008
Hey Samsung, did you get that?
I apologize for raining on your parade, but somebody needs to tell you that Android 4 already has face recognition for authentication built in. It's just ANOTHER feature that Apple "borrows" from Android.


macrumors 6502
Jun 26, 2010
I apologize for raining on your parade, but somebody needs to tell you that Android 4 already has face recognition for authentication built in. It's just ANOTHER feature that Apple "borrows" from Android.
Uh..does this infringe on the Apple patent?


macrumors 65816
Jul 21, 2011
Sometimes technology is cool and useful. Other times it's cool and impractical. I think this face recognition feature belongs in the latter category.

I'm just seems so impractical. Just because something can be done, doesn't mean people will use it. I don't see many people using this feature at all.

But hey...i love technology and wouldn't want it to stop. Who knows what other useful things will come from such advances.


macrumors newbie
Sep 28, 2011
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rkahl said:
Hey Samsung, did you get that?
Already on the Samsung nexus as standard. Can see a patent feud blowing up! Not like apple!