A recent patent proves Apple is working on an often-requested feature for iPad and iPhone: multiple user accounts. It’s not proof that this will be part of the next version of iOS or iPadOS, but it’s a promising sign.
iPhone and iPad multiple user accounts isn’t easy
iPads are regularly shared among families and co-workers. And many a parent hands their iPhone over to a child. There’d be far fewer problems in these device exchanges if each user had their own account.
The challenge in adding this feature is that iOS and iPadOS encrypt their storage with the passcode used to unlock the device. Without the passcode, the phone or tablet cannot access files. But with two or more users with different passcodes, files have to be encrypted with separate passcodes.
This is a strength, because one user won‘t be able to read another user’s files. But it’s also an extra level of complexity.
Apple examining the possibility
Apple recently received a patent for “Provision of domains in secure enclave to support multiple users.” In the stilted, technical phrasing of such documents, the filing describes a way for Apple’s Secure Enclave to handle more than one account and passcode. It covers “a system, method, and apparatus to provision domains in a secure enclave processor to support multiple users.” That includes “smartphone or tablet computing devices.”
The Secure Enclave is a coprocessor in iPhones, Macs and many other Apple devices intended specifically to handle encryption and other security tasks.
The details of the multi-account security method covered in the patent are of interest only to experts. What’s important to the average user is that Apple is putting time and money into exploring ways to bring multiple user accounts to iPhone and iPad.
But just because the company patented such a system doesn’t indicate it’s guaranteed to be coming to iPhone and iPad in the near future. Apple regularly patents ideas that are never heard from again. But this is a feature that many users have requested for over a decade. Perhaps it’s finally going to happen.