The USPTO has today published a patent application by Apple to allow a specific fingerprint to activate a ‘panic mode’ on an iPhone, designed for use when the owner feels threatened, is in danger or is being forced to unlock their phone.

In its most basic form, placing a specific finger on the Touch ID button would place the iPhone into a special locked-down mode, blocking access to personal data store on the phone – perhaps simulating a brand new phone. In that way, if a street robber forced you to unlock your phone before handing it over, your data would be safe.

But the patent application goes far beyond this … 

One option described in the patent is for the panic mode to activate the iPhone’s camera and microphone, transmitting video and audio to ’emergency response providers’ who could use the information to decide what action to take – whether it be alerting a family member or friend that you need help, or contacting police, fire service or medical personnel.

Yet another option describes the example of a hiker suffering a fall and activating a panic mode that would call 911 and use the GPS to automatically report the location of the casualty.


The patent includes the possibility of having multiple panic modes, activated by placing different fingers on the Touch ID sensor.

As ever with Apple patents, there’s no way to tell the likelihood of the company actually implementing the idea, but I do think this one has a lot of potential. In particular, the idea of protecting data and capturing video or photos of a thief seems like an excellent complement to Activation Lock. With that additional protection in place, a thief would have to be spectacularly dumb to steal an iPhone.

Check out the full description for more details, and let us know in comments what you think.

Via Business Insider

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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