The Touch ID fingerprint sensor already securely unlocks iPhones and iPads. Can it be any more secure though? Yes, based on a patent application submitted by Apple in June, 2013 and spotted Thursday by AppleInsider.
There’s no guarantee [company]Apple[/company] will implement what it describes in the patent, but if it does, the Touch ID will add a second method of unlocking. Based on the description, the sensor could support a combination of your fingerprint in addition to a pattern swipe unlock process as illustrated:
Another illustration shows how you might rotate your finger on the Touch ID sensor to twist a clock-like on-screen interface to select different numbers and unlock a mobile device.
Apple could implement this with the ring around the fingerprint reader; that surface is now used to enable Reachability: By double tapping the ring, iOS will slide the display contents downward, making it easier to reach items that were previously on the top of the screen.
Again, the application of a patent doesn’t mean Apple is definitely going to implement a feature. It does lay the groundwork — at least from the standpoint of protecting the idea — however, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Apple did include this as an option this in future iOS devices.