iOS 11 wish list: Touch ID and password lock for every app

Right now, if I hand my iPhone or iPad to someone to see a photo, social media posting, make an emergency call, or check out a website, I'm also handing over access to all my messages, personal photos, and even passwords and credit cards. iOS 10 has just shipped, and iOS 10.1, iOS 10.2, or iOS 10.3 might have a trick or two up their sleeves. But Apple's already hard at work setting up for iOS 11, and one of the things I'm hoping makes the feature list is optional Touch ID and password protection for every app.

Touch ID everywhere

That's far, far easier to write than to engineer of course. Apps are interconnected. With Photos, there's the ImagePicker that lets you pull images and videos into other apps. With Messages, there's the Share Sheet extension that lets you send almost anything to almost any one. With Health, there's syncing data both into and out of other apps and even accessories.

Managing all of that at the app level — which is what the Touch ID API allows everything from password managers to bank apps to do already — is one thing. Managing all of that at the individual item level us quite another.

In other words, you don't get asked for Touch ID or a password simply to open the Notes app. You get asked for Touch ID or a password to open protected notes inside the app. That same kind of granularity could apply to other apps, depending on the type of data they contain.

For example, Messages could allow the protection of individual conversation threads. Health of entire categories. Photos could offer both protected Albums and protected pictures and videos.

Albums would require passcode or Touch ID to open, individual pictures and videos would be visible and accessible only when the protected album was unlocked. Neither would show up in Moments, Collections, Years, or ImagePickers outside the protected album.

Scaling security

Protecting the entire app, like a password manager or bank client, could make sense for Notes, Messages, Health, and other apps as well. It could be enabled on an app-by-app basis in Settings, the same way Notifications or Location are. Toggle on and you're asked for your passcode or Touch ID. (Whether or not per-app passcodes would be beneficial or burdensome is another question.)

Protecting the individual items, like in Notes for iOS 9.3 might only make sense in some specific cases. Either way, just like Notes, it would let us keep any health, financial, picture, document, password, or other data safe and secure, regardless of what it is or where we keep it.

(If done right, it might even obviate the need for a Guest Mode and GuestBoard.)

App Store apps could even move their Touch ID options out of the per-app settings and into the unified Touch ID settings, making for a more consistent experience.

The biggest issue is the passwords themselves. Notes requires you to create a specific password just for Notes, which then also allows Touch ID to "fill" it. Having to create — and remember — an app-specific password for each app would be odious if not impossible.

Currently I only remember my 1Password app password, and copy out everything else to paste in for my banking app, even Notes when it doesn't come immediately to mind.

Perhaps Keychain could help here, perhaps I'm just leaving in a beautiful dream world. Either way, here's hoping Apple is already working on something like that for an iOS 10 update... or iOS 11!

What's on your wish list?

What do you want to see when it comes to iOS 11 app security? Let me know!

I've filed this as a feature request with Apple: rdar://24817355. If you have any ideas about securing iOS at the app or item level, let me know below!

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.

  • Rene, an item I have had on my Wish List for a long time, ever since Apple gave us Control Center, is for there to a switch in Control Center to turn on and off Wi-Fi Hot Spot. This is a feature I use all the time and is a pain to get to. It seems like a natural fit to have it in Control Center...way more important than having a HUGE button for "Night Shift". Thank you for all the great stuff you and iMore have here!
  • This seems like a perfect 3d touch option.
  • I agree, that would be a great option as well, something to make it easily assessable.
  • That is a great idea. I don't use hotspot a heap but it seems a natural fit Sent from the iMore App
  • Double click power button to instantly take a photo. I know it's faster get the camera app open, but I'm still not fast enough to capture those short lived moments.
  • Interesting list. I like the ideas for touch id and security. My list is more basic. I primarilly want 1) ability to set default apps and 2) a much improved Siri with integration across a larger set of apps. After that, things like ability to customize the control center and more granular control over how I can interact with notifications would be helpful. Finally, I would love an automatic silence feature that puts my phone into (and out of) silent mode for calendar events by specific criteria.
  • - The option to change the wallpaper on the lock screen and/or home screen either every X minutes/hours or every time the phone is unlocked. Obviously this would require choosing a "Wallpapers" album unless you want it to use all of your photos. - The ability to fine-tune which notifications I get from within the settings app. I don't want to have to hunt through an app's terrible UI to toggle specific notifications. - A per-app Do Not Disturb mode. I don't want to be playing a game when a huge notification pops up and I accidentally tap it, taking me to another app. Sometimes I catch myself before I tap it and then try to swipe it away because it's covering up important information or buttons, but with iOS 10 that seems even more finicky than it used to be. Yes, I can toggle Do Not Disturb before playing the game, but when those games last ~25 minutes each, you can see how I'd forget to turn it off even with that tiny icon in the status bar. - A "download all" button in Apple Music. When I set up my iPhone 7 none of my music was available for offline, and the only way to make it all offline ready that I know of is to make a single playlist containing all of my music and downloading that. Even that isn't so simple, because there's no way to create large playlists easily on iOS, so I have to do it within iTunes. - Custom sorting rules in music playlists. I'm not the only one who doesn't like playlists sorted in chronological order. Those are just a few off the top of my head, I know I've thought of more - some trivial and some very specific to my use cases - but they can't be that amazing if I can't remember them.
  • A calendar like android instead of little circles redesign it so you can see your appointments for the month Sent from the iMore App
  • How about the ability to unlock just one app.
  • This is a solved problem since Android 5, two years ago. You can "pin" an open app before giving your phone to someone.. This prevents opening another app or going to the home screen without your passcode or fingerprint.
    The idea of requiring authentication to open every app, and presumably also to switch between apps, is ludicrous. It's not something people would leave turned on.
  • You can do this in the last few versions of iOS too.
    Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Guided Access -> enable
    Once enabled you just need to triple click Home button in an app to lock it to that app.
    I believe it requires your passcode or TouchID to exit app. Sent from the iMore App
  • Windows Phone used to have something called 'Kid's Corner'. You would swipe from the right from your lock screen and it would take you to a separate screen of apps that were pre-assigned by you to be viewed there. The rest of the phone would be locked behind your passcode. It was designed to allow kids to play games, listen to music, etc without the risk of them messing around with your other apps. I always thought it was a great idea. I used it as a music hub. I put all my music apps there and pinned all my favorite artists for quick access. It was super convenient. To get back to the unrestricted part of your phone, you just swiped from the left and input your passcode.
  • How about Photos (iOS side) being able to recognize Smart Albums?!?! Being able to set the day of the month where your carrier plan cycles, resetting your minutes/data usage, without having to do it manually after a reminder? This is just too basic of a function to be without, and one of the PRIMARY reasons computers were created for -- automating tasks. I second the idea of a Control-Center icon to turn Hotspot on/off. I also second the idea of being able to somewhat customize Control Center. Can we get the analog world clock option back? This was an unnecessary removal in iOS 10. How about Notifications displaying the full date on top, including the hour? Siri being voiced by Gilbert Gottfried? OK, I kid on this one (but it WOULD be hilarious)!
  • Customizable control center. Set default apps. Sent from the iMore App
  • All I want in a new iOS e real multitasking like you can find on Samsung! I'm nota fan of Android but is THE feature that should be happening on iOS... If there's REAL multitasking on iPad why isn't there on iPhone...