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
85 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
85 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
85 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
85 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
85 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
85 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)

Popular Stories

apple ar headset concept 1

Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

Friday May 20, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device. Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike...
anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
sony headphones 1

Sony's New WH-1000XM5 Headphones vs. Apple's AirPods Max

Friday May 20, 2022 12:18 pm PDT by
Sony this week came out with an updated version of its popular over-ear noise canceling headphones, so we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Max to see which headphones are better and whether it's worth buying the $400 WH-1000XM5 from Sony over Apple's $549 AirPods Max. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. First of all, the AirPods Max win out when it comes ...
iPhone 14 Purple Lineup Feature

Will the iPhone 14 Be a Disappointment?

Saturday May 21, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
With around four months to go before Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 14 lineup, the overwhelming majority of rumors related to the new devices so far have focused on the iPhone 14 Pro, rather than the standard iPhone 14 – leading to questions about how different the iPhone 14 will actually be from its predecessor, the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are expected...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple's AR/VR Headset Nearing Completion as Board Gets Demo

Thursday May 19, 2022 9:52 am PDT by
Apple last week demonstrated its upcoming AR/VR headset to Apple board members, indicating that the device is in an advanced stage of development and could see a debut in the not too distant future, reports Bloomberg. Apple has also ramped up development of the software that runs on the headset, with that software expected to be called "RealityOS," or rOS for short. Render via designer Ian ...