The rumor of the iPhone 13 could be accessed by multiple users as Apple works on developing its Secure Enclave technology that allows different people to safely use a single iPhone or iPad.
This is what we can learn from the new Apple patent describing in detail how a “peripheral processor or processing system” separate from the main iPhone or iPad chip could be used to create a system on a chip (SoC) that can safely handle multi-user data.
From the iPhone 5S onwards, Apple uses its custom T1 or T2 security chips to create a secure enclave on Macs, iPads, iPhones, and even the Apple Watch. Secure Enclave provides hardware-level encryption to user data, preventing it from leaving the device and isolating it from the main SoC. This basically adds an extra level of security to Apple devices.
Such techniques have previously been used in other computer devices and are often referred to as “sandboxing”. Apple explained that it is not good for protecting multi-user devices.
“For multi-user devices, standard testing in a protected environment alone will not prevent one user from accessing another user’s data if both users use the same application,” the patent states. “Therefore, techniques are needed that allow optimal flexibility in data segregation for multi-user devices.”
Apple’s new patent describes how this can be addressed by using a system “that can contain a secure enclave processor (SEP)” to act as a “primary arbiter of all access to data in the system.”
In our understanding, this would mean that SEP would effectively act as a data store for different users on one device, preventing one user from accessing information belonging to another. Various user data would be stored in “containers” in the device’s secure memory, and the system could only access it when the real user logs in and passes the authentication.
All this sounds quite complex, but in practice everything would be confirmed by a password or Touch ID. The SEP would also keep an eye out for unwanted users trying to cheat or grossly violently enter an Apple device. What is not clear is whether SEP will be another separate chip or will be integrated into a future version of the T2 chip.
Unlike some of Apple’s more unusual patents, this one looks more realistic and something we could see coming into effect soon.
We wouldn’t be surprised if we added SEP to the iPhone 13, along with other upgrades like the 120Hz display and new cameras. And the next-generation iPads are also likely candidates for SEP given that it’s easy to imagine how iPads can be shared by different people in one household.