Apple's patent for 'image-based authentication' would necessitate an iPhone or iPad user to identify a person on their lock screen to use the device
Apple is considering to replace its passcode unlocking feature with a new system that will work via image or voice recognition.
The new technology works by displaying a random picture of one of the user's contacts and searching their name from a list on the device or through voice recognition.
A user would then need to identify an object or person on their screen in order to unlock the device.
Apple said in a filing that users sometimes misplace their handheld devices or inadvertently leave them in public places.
"To dissuade thieves from stealing handheld devices (or people from accessing their friends' devices), many software manufacturers require a user to provide input that 'unlocks' the handheld device," the company said.
"Such input may be a passcode of four or more characters. However, this approach for authenticating a user can be easily compromised."
Apple also explained that current methods of device protection can easily be abused.