A big request from parents regarding iOS has been that Apple implement user accounts on its mobile devices, in order to make it so that a parent can sign in with greater access to device features and apps than a child, for instance. It’s a system that already has an analogue on the desktop, and that Google has seen fit to implement with multiple user accounts with varying levels of permissions for tablets running Android 4.3 and higher. A new patent granted to Apple today (spotted by AppleInsider) describes a way of changing device access depending on who’s doing the accessing.
Apple’s newly awarded patent describes a system wherein the method used by a user to unlock a device via gesture-based input would determine what apps are made available, as well as what hardware functions are available. So, for instance, one gesture (could be the drawing of a specific shape or letter with a fingertip) might allow access only to games content on the phones, while another could offer up access to an entire category of apps provided through corporate deployment, but not to other features.
The system Apple has patented also allows for gestures to unlock the phone directly into specific apps, so that one could launch the email app and keep a user within that bit of software exclusively, for instance. Other incarnations could limit access to certain phone features, including the camera and mic, or to in-app purchases, locking down a device for worry-free sharing with a child.
Aside from finally effectively enabling “guest mode” on a device, this patent in action would allow Apple to build a lockscreen launcher that can be operated not only via gestures, but also by voice and by keyboard, mouse or stylus events (all of which are covered by the patent). The potential applications, for use not only among parents but also in schools, in secure data enterprise environments and more are extensive, so hopefully this is one of the patents that Apple actually puts into practice.