apple pattern unlock

For the last couple of weeks, in a courtroom in California, Apple has been trying to convince jurors to award it hundreds of millions of dollars as compensation for Samsung’s alleged infringement of its infamous slide-to-unlock patent.

Meanwhile, the Cupertino-based company is applying for two patents on a screen unlocking method which channels a feature that Android had for years.


Unlock pattern on a Motorola Droid (2010) running Android 2.0.1

To be clear, Apple is not trying to patent the specific gesture unlock system we know from Android. It probably couldn’t, as the prior art is undeniable. Rather than that, the company is proposing an evolution of the idea of drawing a specific pattern across a matrix of elements to unlock a mobile device.

Apple’s idea is to make the matrix of dots configurable and to add invisible dots, that the user would need to be aware of in order to enter the correct pattern. The applications also mention variations in the pattern entry, such as different speeds and pauses, that would add an element of complexity, making it much harder for an unauthorized user to guess the pattern. The system also includes a pattern strength meter, similar to the password strength meters used on many sites.

apple pattern unlock (2)

To be granted a patent, an invention must be novel and non-trivial. Apple’s applications may meet these conditions, at least at first glance. The US Patent and Trademark Office will decide if indeed these core conditions are satisfied.

Apple has clearly channeled the Android implementation of pattern unlock, and arguably enhanced it. There’s nothing wrong with that, as there’s nothing wrong with protecting one’s ideas with patents.

But these patent applications do raise a question – why? It seems unlikely that Apple would adopt pattern unlock for its devices, with Touch ID being well received on the iPhone and rumored to come to the iPads. Adopting the feature would also expose Apple to accusations of copying and, potentially, legal action from Google, who holds several patents on pattern unlock.

So if Apple won’t (or can’t) use pattern unlock on its devices, why would it try to patent this evolution of the idea? Probably just to make it unavailable to competitors. If Apple is granted the patents it seeks, Google would have a harder time enhancing pattern unlock to make it more secure or more useful for Android users.

If that’s the case, we’re again witnessing one of the uglier sides of the tech industry. Of course, it’s not just Apple that’s resorting to preventive patenting, as the entire industry is furiously seeking legal protection even for the most insignificant features. The problem is users are hardly winning anything from this state of affairs.

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.
  • RarestName

    The patent looks too confusing for my smallish brain.

  • Chris Martinelli

    This is to match the pull down notifications, multitasking and many other features that are dangerously close to Android and the taskswitching that is close to WebOS and look and feel close to WP.

    Copy me, shame on you. Copy you, no shame at all.

    • mobilemann

      Android has borrowed plenty from iOS as well. I just want everyone to chill with the lawsuits, but it doesn’t make me super angry, but only because i actually like technology. Most of the kids here just like to cheerlead.

      • somedude

        personally i couldn’t give a monkeys what Apple and Samsung do now its got boring as long as they produce the devices i want they can fight each other for the next 100 years they are too stupid and arrogant to realise that the only people winning in all these wars is the lawyers , i have neither preference for android or apple now.

        • mobilemann

          i actually prefer (if we are talking only OS) Android. I just don’t like fanboys, like @Guest123.

        • [S]unjay Burn[s] Red

          Apple is the one who’s suing, not Samsung.

          • Michael Samsara

            At least not as much.

      • flamencoguy

        Apple makes claims and sues for billions

        • Michael Samsara

          Apple doesn’t care about the money. They care about stifling competition and destroying – going “thermonuclear” on anyone who stands between them and what they consider their Steve Job’s given – I mean God given – right to own the smartphone market.

          What we need is a United States Department of Justice that gives a rats ass about pursuing companies that are using their positions of power to quash competition who will use all the power accorded it by the Sherman Anti-Trust Act as well as all attendant laws before or after that watershed moment in legislative history that said essentially, “We don’t care how big you are; we don’t care how mean you are; we don’t care how many people adore you – we WILL come after you and if need be the government will take you apart so that all the kings horses and all the king’s men can’t put you back together again.”

          Back when Microsoft was acting just like Apple they had a Justice Department and prosecutors who were serious about enforcing this dictum and protecting those who are weaker from 800 pound gorillas who had gotten way “too pleased with themselves”. Microsoft nearly found itself broken up – and everyone from Bill Gates on down – was forced to testify and comment upon all the anti-competitive things they had either knowingly or unintentionally due to a lack of oversight they had made simply “business as usual” at Microsoft.

          Unfortunately, our current Justice Department – led by a man who considers himself above a contempt of Congress finding, and his master – a man committed to the destruction of capitalism and the free market is about as likely to take on Apple as a dyed in the wool democrat is to admit that Obama has perfected the art of “See no evil; Hear no evil and Speak no truth” better than even Bill Clinton.

          And yes, politics DOES have not just something, but almost everything to do with this; lest you wonder why I relate this issue to the aforementioned. If our goal is to have a free, vital, vibrant and competitive economy with America not being relegated to the same dust bin of also rans – like France with its socialist model that our leader seems to love so much – then ultimately – hopefully come this November’s elections – Americans will finally face up to the fact that this man who would be king is more like the King who had no clothes, and push an American “Reset” button by resetting the power dynamic in the United States Senate so he cannot continue to dictate with his “pen and phone” what he thinks we should be doing – rather than what the Constitution says he should be doing – enforcing the laws of the land – rather than ignoring them when he finds it inconvenient to do so.

        • mobilemann

          So did Nokia, and most other oems. Nokia also actually sued first. You would know if you weren’t a fanboy.

          • flamencoguy

            Apple makes it a habit. You can see the pattern .We are talking about dozens of lawsuits over Europe, Asia and North American over the ;last 4 years. Don’t see the difference? I am not a fanboy of Samsung or Android. Just an Apple hater. You however seem to be an Apple defender/polisher. I see Android camp as the competition only. I do not have any brand loyalties. The enemy of the enemy is my friend.

          • mobilemann

            So has Samsung and Nokia and HTC. I use a Samsung phone, I don’t care. I just find the insistance funny. I’ve read the articles

          • Guest

            You mean to say, “Nokia sued apple after trying to negotiate with apple for over two years to license tech that every other smartphone manufacturer pays Nokia for, like GSM technology. Once it got to court apple caved and settled, and it wasn’t over stupid software BS patents either.”

            There. . . fixed that for you.

            Funny how you defend apple so much but call everyone else a fanboy.

      • Chris Martinelli

        Totally agreed. I have no [rpblem with companies copying the ideas of others. It’s been done forever in business… The issue is the suing and Apple’s total hypocrisy about it.

    • [S]unjay Burn[s] Red

      “Copy me, shame on you. Copy you, no shame at all.”

      Made my day.

  • Jagd

    I’m sure the original inventor of pattern unlock have these covered, it’s just Google choose to implement the simplest one. There’s so many room left for improvement.

  • Guest123

    This is what apple does, ever since visiting Xerox PARC — reiterate a currently working idea with slight modifications, patent it if they can and ensure that all prior art is NOT listed in the patent, then convince the iTards that they *invented* anything and everything about that idea, finally file lawsuits against anyone and everyone they can and convince tech illiterate jury members that they invented everything and prior art is irrelevant.

    Seems to be working for them. . . .

    • mobilemann

      meanwhile in reality, (if you aren’t a fanboy)

      xerox offered to license to them, and did, and then sued years later, as anyone would when apple blew up. You’re a child who doesn’t know shit, and they are cool to hate right now. So boring.

      That being said, if it is pretty much the same, it will (i hope) be invalidated for prior art.

      • Guest123

        No, Xerox did NOT offer or give/sell Apple a license to anything at that time.

        It was a one time cash deal to get into the door for a “demo” (actually ended up being two demos) and for apple to “get their own ideas,” NOT steal and/or directly copy Xerox’s work, as they did, and then try to patent it as their own, thus Xerox sued for precisely that — apple claiming their blatantly copied work was their own and not Xerox’s. The head of Xerox PARC actually refused to show Steve Jobs the tech as she knew full well that he was going to steal it, thus Steve threw more cash at the executives to force her to show the tech in a second demo, and Steve then went about blatantly stealing every single idea they could remember. NO LICENSE WAS EVER SOLD TO APPLE BY XEROX. The reason being, back then you couldn’t patent software shit life you can now, thus apple lost their lawsuit against Microsoft for MS stealing the “look and feel” of the Mac OS, etc.

        So, “you child who doesn’t know shit” why don’t you stop reading apple propaganda and actually get the real information.

        • mobilemann

          He asked them to open their kimono. And they were offered what would be worth about 2.1 billion in stocks. (20% of apple) They did that for a demo? You have no idea what you’re talking about, fanboy.

          yeah, new yorker (which goes into where xerox got the mouse, hint, not from xerox) Yes, you are a fanboy child. it’s fine with me though:D

          • Guest123

            YOU ARE AN IDIOT!

            From the article you link:

            “So Jobs proposed a deal: he would allow Xerox to buy a hundred thousand
            shares of his company for a million dollars—its highly anticipated
            I.P.O. was just a year away—if PARC would “open its kimono.””


            Pre IPO stock isn’t a percentage of the company, nor was it billions that apple *paid* to Xerox — apple allowed them to PURCHASE pre IPO stock! Pre IPO stock is make out of thin air. And ultimately wasn’t worth shit in the 90s when Xerox sued because the felt ripped off.

            So, YES they would allow Xerox to buy pre IPO stock just for a demo, and Bill Gates got in for free.

            What an idiot! I’m done with your stupid ass, can’t even read the friggin article you link to.

          • mobilemann

            retard, i’m sorry you can’t read english properly. “what would be worth about 2.1 billion in stocks.” and it was around 20% of apple at the time. (if you don’t get it a second time, i give up. learn to phrase)

            But you were right, about only one thing; i thought there was licensing, that’s the only thing i’ve been wrong about.

            Bill gates didn’t get in for free either. Revisionist history from fanboy in need of making shit up. Grow a dick, stop freaking out, kid. You’re done because you’re wrong, no other reason:D

            looking forward to your response in about 3 min, enjoy writing in caps:D

          • Guest123

            woulda coulda shoulda.. .

            Show me the license deal you say they had — would be public due to Xerox’s lawsuit.


            STFU idot!

          • Farbod

            mommy? why are these big 12 yea old fighting mommy?

          • mobilemann

            sit down son, this is srs bzns:P

          • mobilemann

            wow, you really can’t read. My bad.

          • Guest123

            Oh I got it. . . I’m just driving home the point that you need to STFU because you started shit, calling people names, up-voting yourself, etc. . . all based on BS you know nothing about, were totally misinformed about, and made up.

            So you really need to STFU! Grow a dick and man up to your own fanboy behavior, as you are the only one acting like a fanboy — I simply pointed out factual behavior of apple that anyone informed would know, no different than if I pointed out MS or google’s behaviors, but you run to apple’s defense, pathetic!

        • flamencoguy

          I totally agree and share your sentiments about Apple. Slimey company caught trying to fix ebook prices too. Sued Polish web site . NZ company driphone, Mexican company iFone, tried to screw China company for trademark iPad, sued small Spanish tablet maker but fortunately lost. I have dedicated my time to finding shit about this company. Look it up for yourselves if anyone doubts me. Check out Foss patents. Many times tried to kill Samsung tablets in Europe. They have been emboldened by success in lawsuits and now making outrageous claims.

          • Guest

            Apple actually crushed many tablet manufacturers in Europe. Because they have so much power and money they essentially said, if you bring that tablet to market we will sue you out of existence. Since the companies were very small they couldn’t afford to fight apple, thus scrapped all plans of bringing Android based devices to market.

            Apple and MS are two of the most anti-competitive companies in the world. . . not a good thing for consumers.

      • Guest123

        Now you are going back editing your comment? You are really pathetic dude! Own it since you put it out there calling others names and bashing.

    • TheWay

      Xerox OS a prior art? i wouldnt pay a cent for that crap, despite all your hate for Apple u can change the fact. Mac OS was the first sucessfull OS, a prior art, a invention..but based on your stupid logic nobody ever invented anything
      Xerox or LISA OS was failure Mac OS was success

      Nobody remebers who tried to cure cancer
      Show a little respect for Apple without them AA wouldnt exist

      • Sed12

        Good one!

      • [S]unjay Burn[s] Red

        Your computer wouldn’t exist as you know it without Xerox.

        AA – Asking Alexandria

        • TheWay

          I highly doubt that! Apple was the first to show interest in PC
          How is Xerox OS any different from Samsung S4 Eye Tracking?
          When Apple launches a PrimeSense product and is just as good and usefull like the iPhone u fanboys gonna say Samsung did it first

      • flamencoguy

        The initial idea that no one ever thought of was hatched at xerox parc. I.e using icons and mouse instead of keyboard and text only. Check it out on you tube.

        • TheWay

          Xerox did not invent the Icons, the mouse or GUI idea
          Do i need to post a link?

  • Luka Mlinar

    I hope Google takes billions from them.

    • Sparkie3222

      I hope so too. Apple only managed to get away with it due to all the Apple fans that were in the Jury.

      • Luka Mlinar

        They won because it was an American court. When they lose Obama uses his power to veto it.

        • TheWay

          They won because Samsung sux! but u cant see that because your blind of fanboysm

          • Herpy Derpy

            Oh look! An applebot seems to have lost its way.

          • Luka Mlinar

            Poor fella. So cute when you see him in the wild. Run back home little guy.

  • Matt Messier

    It’s just to unlock the device, i don’t get why stuff like this is such a big deal.

    • flamencoguy

      To you and me. But Apple will use every small feature to sue for money.

  • Farbod

    Why would Apple even need this if they have touch ID? I think a 4 digit passcode would be sufficient when touch ID cant be used (like after rebooting)

    • The-Sailor-Man

      For larger iphones touch ID will be hard to use one handed

    • flamencoguy

      They are trying to prevent anyone else from using it and for the unsuspecting company who may coincidental come up with same idea. Its back to the courts to make more money. The are a practicing company that also trolls.

  • Rijoenpial

    I hardly doubt that Apple has grounds for gaining this patent because the method is very similar to Android’s, not to say virtually identical! Patents take into consideration how software and hardware features works and it looks like it works virtually identical to Android, minus the ‘invisible’ dots! Prior art, prior patent, is obvious here and it is clear that Apple is abusing Android’s patent! If USPTO grants this to Apple, then it is clear that Google should order a thorough investigation of USPTO practices and MO, as it would be clear that the USPTO is violating patent law, by dismissing prior patents and then awarding that same patent to a competitor! This entity is becoming a liability against technology and tech companies in general, showing a level of corruption and criminal behavior (breaking the law) that must be dealt with swiftly and harshly by the authorities! This Apple favouring needs to stop! Cheers

    • The-Sailor-Man

      Apple could patent any BS in US. Ask Obama

  • Android Developer

    Does Google (or any other company) have a patent on the pattern unlocking method?

    • The-Sailor-Man

      May be not.
      That’s what Apple do well in US, though. And then Apple will ask 2bill and $40 per device, from every android OEM

      • Android Developer

        That’s why I asked about it.
        It’s so weird that they succeed in this, and I really hope this time it will end.

  • deepen915

    so they can do this.. but they wanna sue the hell out of anyone who uses a shape of a phone that looks like an iPhone?

  • Andrew T Roach

    Doesn’t make much sense when Touch ID works flawlessly from any angle already.

    • The-Sailor-Man

      When iPhone get bigger it will be not easy to place your finger there ONE HANDED
      Gesture unlock is much better and enough secure,
      By the way, no one of iphone5s users that I know have activated this ID BS.

  • email

    Maybe stop copying everyone else and use those fucking brains which somehow zombified after steve jobs died!

  • flamencoguy

    This is hardly innovative, just ever so tiny tweak. Where is the real innovation from this ape company. I will never spend a dime on this company. Samsung just invented a new way to produce graphene efficiently. They have 5G telecom in the works. Apple is just playing with finger drawing. That’s what this amounts to.

  • Piotr Rogulski

    Coming soon: “Apple tries to patent pull down notifications”

  • p3ngwin

    oh look, Android’s pattern unlock feature working YEARS before Apple even patented it

    Ignore the thumbnail, it’s from the beginning of the video, i’ve linked to the time of the Android plagiarism :)