Apple Patent iPad Kids Mode
September 3, 2013

New Apple Patent Could Create ‘Kid Mode’ For iPad

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Apple is widely expected to release a new iPhone next week with new security controls, including a biometric scanner meant to allow only those with approved fingerprints to access the device.

Today Apple was granted a patent for another security option for iPhones and iPads called the “Method, apparatus and system for access mode control of a device.” As described in the filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, (USPTO) this newly awarded patent gives users more control over how specific apps are launched. For instance, a specific gesture could be used to grant different levels of access to the phone. A user could use one simple gesture to unlock only game usage on the iPad or iPhone, a feature that could be particularly useful for parents who lend their devices to their children.

A second gesture could be used to unlock only messaging apps while a third could be employed to unlock all levels of the phone. The patent, spotted first by AppleInsider, also allows for other methods of input, including voice, keyboard, mouse or even stylus inputs.

This means future versions of iOS could keep iPads and iPhones locked until the user utters a specific phrase used to unlock the phone. Stylus gestures could also be employed to unlock not only the phone but also different aspects of the phone.

Ever since the iPad was introduced in 2010, many owners have been clamoring for a multiple user mode on their tablets. As it stands, the iPad is wide open to any user with the one, general password. While Apple allows users to restrict certain permissions on the tablet, such as in-app purchases, there's still no significant finer-level control over who can use an iOS device. This complaint was never more apparent than when parents sought permission to lob a class action lawsuit at Apple earlier this year.

Though the iPad maker fixed the issue before the lawsuits came, parents became upset when they discovered their iPads only asked for their App Store password once every ten minutes. Any purchases made within this window, then, did not require the password. Parents buying games for their children, even free games, were essentially handing over their credit cards.

This became a real problem as in-app purchases became popular. App developers give their games away for free in the App Store but give gamers the choice to either advance more quickly through the game or buy bonus material through in-app purchases. Sometimes, as was the case in a Smurfs game which was specifically called out in the class action suit, these in-app purchases were used to buy fictional currency that could be used within the game.With access to the app store, children were buying up these bonus features without their parents permission, sometimes running up their parents’ iTunes bill as high as $2,000.

This new patent could be exactly what parents have been asking for. With a single gesture, an iPad could be opened only to a group of game apps. A parent could furthermore adjust the settings to prohibit any in-app purchases or access to the web, effectively creating a “kids mode” for the device. The same unlocking feature could also be used in schools where iPads are used in the classroom. Without the administrator gesture, students could be given their own gesture used to unlock only those apps that they need for class.

Apple is expected to release their newest version of iOS, iOS 7, in the coming weeks. It is not yet known if this feature will arrive in iOS 7 or a laterversion - if it’s ever released at all.