What's in Apple's next iPhone? It's way too early to tell, but speculation surrounding the upcoming iPhone 7 point to an advanced Touch ID feature.

The first company to include biometrics in its devices, Apple's Touch ID technology allows people to quickly and effortlessly unlock their phones and make payments online with just a touch of the finger.

Rumor has it now that Touch ID is learning some new tricks. According to a patent filed by Apple more than a year ago (which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released just today), the company has created a method for iPhone users to discreetly enter a "panic mode" on their phones with a specific finger.

Presently, Apple's Touch ID allows users to register multiple fingerprints to execute one specific action like unlocking their phones or making a payment. This latest patent reverse engineers that process by assigning one particular fingerprint to invoke a specific action. For example, one could assign the left thumb to lock down the phone or the right thumb to open the most used app like the camera.

"Depending on the fingerprint that was captured, a particular action may be carried out when the device is unlocked. In one example, a fingerprint of an index finger may indicate that a call is to be placed. When the fingerprint of the user's index finger is captured, when the mobile device is unlocked, a telephone application may be launched to allow the user to place a call after the mobile device has been unlocked," Apple explains further in the patent.

Plainly titled, "FINGERPRINT ACTIVATION OF A PANIC MODE OF OPERATION FOR A MOBILE DEVICE," it's actually quite a novel idea, especially in emergency situations. Pressing the designated "panic finger" on the home button will tell the iPhone that the user is in distress and will automatically lock itself and limit access to the owner's personal data.

That's not all though. Once the iPhone is in "panic mode," it can also take pictures or videos of a thief or attacker and then send those files to the user's iCloud account to be turned over to the police. As an added deterrent, an iPhone could also emit "a noise similar to that produced by a car alarm."

As with all Apple rumors, this one should be taken lightly. Still, a "panic mode" initiated with the press of "panic finger" could be another selling point for Apple to sell even more iPhones in 2016.

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns | Flickr

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