Is the traditional password on death's door? I only ask because we've seen a few moves where companies are looking beyond the alphanumeric, like Google considering a USB/NFC piece of jewellery (like a ring) which could grant access to its services.

Now, a patent unearthed by USPTO-trawlers suggests Apple's eyeing up an image recognition unlock feature -- only, instead of using your visage like Ice Cream Sandwich introduced (and a previous Apple patent suggested), Apple plans to ask the user to identify a contact, based on their avatar. Better start uploading those photos of your mates, then. Though in all honesty, I'm not sure I'd even be able to recognise some of the contacts in my address book, if my weekend's ruthless Facebook cull was anything to go by.

This security feature may make an appearance in iOS devices, along with OS X computers -- though how many of those users actually store contact details on their laptops? I don't, anyway.

Hop over to Patently Apple for more details, along with the backstory on previously-filed passcode alternatives. But before you do that, tell me -- do you actually use a passcode / password to unlock your phone? I occasionally turn mine on, if I'm going to a gig or somewhere where there's a higher-than-normal chance of losing my phone, but most of the time I don't worry too much about it. Should I? Let me know below. [Patently Apple]