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Apple could be about to ditch the passcode unlocking mechanism in favour of a new image recognition tool, according to a patent filing made last week.

The proposed “Image-based Authentication System” would show the image of a random contact on the homescreen and ask users to identify his or her name from a list of possibilities. If the user identifies the image (or images) correctly, then they will be granted access to the device. The system may be employed to unlock iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, or Apple’s line of iMac and MacBook computers.

Traditionally, Apple has employed the 4-digit passcode as a method of unlocking iOS devices, while user-selected passwords grant access to Mac computers. However, Apple has been actively brainstorming for an alternative, with a range of patent filings in the last couple of years.

Facial recognition (like Android’s Face Unlock feature), a two-step slide to unlock system and fingerprint scanning have all been mentioned in recent patents.

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