Will Apple’s Future iPhones Be Able to Recognize a Thief?

Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

As the use of mobile phones has become increasingly widespread, so unfortunately has the epidemic of mobile phone thefts.  According to the Federal Communications Commission, approximately 30 to 40 percent of all robberies in major U.S. cities involve the theft of a mobile phone. As one of the premier smartphone brands with a higher than average resale value, Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones are a particularly attractive target for mobile phone thieves. Fortunately, Apple has taken several steps to help discourage thieves from targeting the iPhone, including the implementation of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S and the introduction of a “kill switch” theft deterrent feature known as Activation Lock in the iOS 7 mobile operating system.

Besides providing a nearly foolproof biometric authentication system, the convenience of Apple’s Touch ID system has also encouraged more iPhone owners to use some form of passcode to protect their devices. As noted by Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, less than half (49 percent) of iPhone owners used a passcode before Touch ID was introduced. However, now 83 percent of iPhone 5S owners use a Touch ID/Passcode to secure their devices.

Meanwhile, according to a press release from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, law enforcement officials in several major cities around the world have seen a noticeable decline in iPhone thefts since the introduction of the Activation Lock feature last year. As noted by Apple, Activation Lock prevents thieves from disabling the Find My iPhone application and requires the owner’s Apple ID and passcode in order to reactivate the phone.

While Touch ID and Activation Lock have helped boost security for Apple’s current generation of devices, a recently published patent spotted by Apple Insider suggests that the Cupertino-based company’s future devices may offer an even more effective theft deterrent. In a patent titled, “Generating notifications based on user behavior,” Apple outlined a method for mobile devices to be able to detect whether or not a user is the owner of a device based on their “behavior-data patterns.”