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
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.

Tags: patent, USPTO
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

antiprotest Avatar
75 months ago
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?
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tobefirst Avatar
75 months ago
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.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
antiprotest Avatar
75 months ago
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?!
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
75 months ago
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.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Allthings-I Avatar
75 months ago
Along with it, Apple should implement 2 more things when Panic mode is activated:

1) Disable the power switch so thief / would be thief cannot power off the device until battery dies.

2) lock SIM tray, so thief / would be thief cannot disconnect the device's communication to the cellular network, allowing greater possibility of recovery.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wesk702 Avatar
75 months ago
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.
This is what I believe is the exact reason they did this. This is what happens when the government tries to outsmart the tech industry.
It's pretty much giving the law "the finger."
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

nothing ear 1 buds 1

Nothing 'Ear (1)' True Wireless Earbuds Launch to Take on AirPods Pro With ANC and Unusual Design for $99

Tuesday July 27, 2021 7:57 am PDT by
Nothing, a new brand from OnePlus founder Carl Pei, has today officially launched the "Ear (1)" true wireless earbuds after months of anticipation around the company's AirPods Pro rival. The Ear (1) features an in-ear design, Active Noise Cancelation, Bluetooth 5.2, IPX4 water resistance, and a charging case with Qi-compatible wireless charging and a USB-C port. Fast pairing is supported on...
iOS 14 on iPhone feature emergency

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1 With Fix for Touch ID Apple Watch Bug

Monday July 26, 2021 9:48 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1, minor bug fix updates that come just a week after the release of iOS 14.7, software that introduced new Apple Card features and support for the MagSafe Battery Pack. The iOS and iPadOS 14.7.1 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to...
iPad mini pro feature 2

iPad Mini 6 to Feature 8.3-Inch Display With No Home Button and Narrower Bezels

Monday July 26, 2021 12:26 pm PDT by
The sixth-generation iPad mini that's in the works will have an 8.3-inch display, according to display analyst Ross Young. That will be larger than the current 7.9-inch display, with the larger size due to the removal of the Home button and a narrower bezel design. Rumors about the iPad mini 6 have been picking up in recent weeks ahead of its prospective launch this fall. Apple analyst...
iphone 12 pro gold

Report: iPhone 14 Pro Models to Feature Tough Titanium Alloy Chassis

Monday July 26, 2021 1:12 am PDT by
Next year's "iPhone 14" series is expected to feature high-end models with a new titanium alloy chassis design, claims a new investors report by JP Morgan Chase. According to the report, the use of titanium alloy will be one of the biggest changes to the case design in the 2022 iPhone series, and Foxconn will be the exclusive manufacturer of the titanium frames for the high-end models....
iOS 15 General Feature Purple

Everything New in iOS 15 Beta 4: Safari Tweaks, MagSafe Battery Pack Support, Notification Updates and More

Tuesday July 27, 2021 11:47 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth betas of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, introducing additional refinements to the new features that are coming in the software updates. In these betas, Apple has introduced changes for Safari, Notifications, Focus mode, and more. Safari Updates Apple is continuing to refine the design of Safari on the iPhone, and in iOS 15, there are tweaks to improve usability. ...
apple mac business page

Apple Shares 11 Reasons Why Business Users Should Choose Macs

Monday July 26, 2021 11:35 am PDT by
Apple today updated its Apple at Work website with a new section dedicated to the Mac, which offers up 11 reasons why "Mac means business." On the webpage, Apple highlights the M1 chip as the number one reason why business users should choose a Mac, offering up an M1 overview [PDF] that explains the benefits of the M1 chip. The information isn't new, but it does provide a look at all of...
imac with accessories

Larger Redesigned High-End iMac Rumored to Launch Next Year

Monday July 26, 2021 3:45 am PDT by
Apple's larger redesigned iMac will arrive sometime in 2022 rather than later this year, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." On Twitter, Dylandkt claimed that Apple's "high end iMac" is not expected to release in the fourth quarter of 2021 alongside Apple's "M1X Macs" – a reference to Apple's redesigned MacBook Pro models – because "Apple simply does not want their devices to...
General iOS 14

iOS 14.7.1 and macOS Big Sur 11.5.1 Patch Security Vulnerability That May Have Been Actively Exploited

Monday July 26, 2021 11:55 am PDT by
Apple today released unexpected iOS 14.7.1 and iPadOS 14.7.1 updates to the public, and according to a newly released support document, the software addresses a serious security vulnerability that may have been exploited in the wild. Apple says that an application may have been able to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges due to a memory corruption issue. "Apple is aware of a report ...
apple bitcoin hack

Is Apple Really Buying Bitcoin?

Monday July 26, 2021 3:07 am PDT by
A large number of websites and posts on social media are stoking rumors that Apple has purchased $2.5 billion worth of bitcoin in the company's first move into cryptocurrency, but is there any validity to the claims? Many people are citing the fact that Apple was looking for a Business Development Manager with experience in alternative payments, including cryptocurrency, earlier this year as ...
new m1 chip

Tim Cook on Apple Deciding to Manufacture Components: 'We Ask Ourselves If We Can Do Something Better'

Tuesday July 27, 2021 3:04 pm PDT by
During today's earnings call for the third fiscal quarter of 2021 (second calendar quarter), Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked how Apple decides what components to purchase and what components to develop, and Cook said that Apple asks if it can be done better. We ask ourselves if we can do something better. If we can deliver a better product. If we can buy something in the market and it's great...