I'd love a 'Guest Mode' in iOS 12

iPhone passcode
iPhone passcode (Image credit: iMore)

Face ID and Touch ID have made it much easier to lock down iPhone X and previous iPhones and iPads so we're the only ones who can access our data. Face ID also — finally! — gives me the ability to lock down iCloud Keychain items so that I have to authenticate in apps and on the web before it will autofill my passwords and credit card information. That way, if I hand a friend, colleague, or stranger-in-need my device to quickly make an emergency call or look up something critical on the web, I don't have to worry about them placing orders on my dime.

(Sadly, Touch ID is currently considered too slow and cumbersome to be forced for web logins but should provide the same protection for in-app logins.)

But there's more on my iPhone and iPad than just my Keychain. There are my emails and messages, photos and videos, calendar and contacts. Apple provided the ability to lock Notes over a year ago but, since then, hasn't extended the functionality to any additional apps. It makes it downright hard to be paranoid.

I'm hoping Apple can address even more of my concerns in the next iPhone and iPad software update, iOS 12.

On board for GuestBoard

Apple could add the option to require Face ID or Touch ID to launch every app. Settings could offer a Secure toggle that engages the authentication system for built-in apps the way password managers and banking apps already do for third-party apps. People and institutions highly vested in security would no doubt love that, but it would add both complexity and an excessive amount of overhead.

A Guest Mode would be a simpler, more elegant solution.

With iOS 8, Apple refactored its system manager, SpringBoard, into several smaller, more focused components. In addition to BackBoard, which was already spun off to handle background tasks, Apple added Frontboard for foreground tasks and PreBoard to handle the Lock screen under secure, encrypted conditions. By extending Preboard with a full-on GuestBoard, iOS could provide a more functional and yet still secure device lending experience.

Similar to how the Lock screen currently allows for emergency calls and even grants access to your Medical ID card without the need to access the Home screen, it would be great if there was a Guest Mode in iOS that could provide access to a secure instance of Phone.app so a lost child could call their parents or WKWebView so a desperate conference attendee could pull up their hotel location.

"Secure" being the key consideration. Lock screen is perpetually torn between security and convenience. You can enable features like Notification Center, message previews, Control Center, Siri, Passbook, and more, and each one provides convenience at the expense of security and privacy. They also expose Apple to potential Lock screen bypasses. Just like you can disable features from the Lock screen, disabling the Guest Mode would allow for individuals to better choose their own balance.

What's more, figuring out the parameters would be a challenge. How many phone calls could a guest place and for how long? How many web pages could they access and for how long? How do you provide emergency access while preventing excessive and unintended voice and data charges? It's always easier to request a feature than to model all the ramifications and implement it in the real world.

But solving hard problems in ways that seem simple and obvious is what Apple does best.

Be our Guest

You can currently create something like Guest Mode using Guided Access. You can lock your iPhone or iPad to Safari and have it stay that way until your passcode unlocks it. You can even use it to restrict an iPad to a game if you want to give it to a child while they wait at a doctor's office or airport.

Guided Access isn't quick to set up, though, and wouldn't be practical in an urgent situation. With Guest Mode, if enabled, you could just swipe, tap, and hand over your iPhone or iPad without having to worry about anyone accessing anything else that's on it — or simply running away with it unlocked.

You could be a good Samaritan without having to risk your privacy, security, or property.

This feature request has been filed with Apple as rdar://35535596.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I'd love a Home Mode where the phone would know when you are home and on your own secured network and automatically disable locking the screen. It would be especially handy when (as I do) you dock your phone at night to charge and listen to streaming radio or music. This way I don't have to fool around with unlocking the screen if I'm in bed but want to change the music.
  • Yes, iOS should have a Guest account. But the iPad should also have the ability to have multiple admin and non-admin accounts... Just like in macOS. The iPad is a computer that is often shared in the same way that a MacBook might be shared. It would be nice to have accounts for each of the members of a family that share an iPad. With storage up to 256GB, it is totally feasible for each family member/user account to have their own apps and data separate from everyone else's (just as you would do with a shared MacBook). Apple has been making the iPad a more competent computer with each iOS version update. With iOS 11 we got features that bring the iPad closer to the capabilities of a Mac, including: drag & drop, a file browser, a Dock, etc. The upgrade to iOS 12 would be a good time to add multiple user accounts to those features. 👍
  • Although I agree on separate accounts on the iPad (Apple has already introduced a system for education based iPads) MacOS works differently than iOS. A Mac that has multiple accounts the Application and Utilities Folders are shared. The Home Folder is locked out to other users. This would be different on iOS as the apps belong to user and are sandboxes. You would need two of every app for two users, taking up more storage. It’s totally doable but I really think Apple isn’t interested in multiple accounts for an iPad let alone the iPhone.
  • I would like to have the ability to 3D touch the music app to have the EQUALIZER show up since I use heavy BASS in the car but not when I am listening through the iphone speakers since it is less loud and more muffled with the tinier speakers. Going through settings is a pain everyday when I jam it in my ride!!