iOS Passwords for People Who Don’t Like Passwords

| Tips

If you're like me, you think that using passwords is a pain. You probably use Automatic Login on your Mac and have no password on your iOS devices. "It's no big deal," you tell yourself, "I can remotely lock or wipe my iPhone if it gets lost or stolen." Of course I'd have to agree with you, always having to enter a password to access your device is a total hassle.

But if you're like me, your superego regularly tells you something else. Something like "hey dummy, use a password! It'll save your butt some day!" Which is why I was quite relieved when I heard a great tip that nearly reduces the hassle of entering a password to zero while increasing the level of security by leaps and bounds relative to the "No Password" technique.

I'll start by telling you the password I use on my iPhone... mostly. It's a single character. One single key press and a tap on "OK" and I'm using my iPhone. It's really more of a gesture than a password. It's also two taps less than the four digit "Simple Passcode" and quite possibly more secure. This is what some pejoratively refer to as "security through obscurity," but in this case it's a good thing.

Passcode LockPasscode Lock settings

So here's how you set up a "simple/complex" password. First head to Settings > General > Passcode Lock and set the switch labeled "Simple Passcode" to the OFF position. Next tap "Turn Passcode On" and enter your single-character password when prompted. You can tweak other passcode-related settings here, but that's up to you.

The character you choose is also up to you, but I recommend one that's in close proximity to where your finger ends up after a "slide to unlock" and near the "OK" button. After all, we're trying to make ourselves into "password people" with the least amount of pain possible.

I know what you're probably thinking: "Isn't a single character password pretty insecure?" In most cases, sure. But this is a unique case. Typically when I see someone with a passcode on their iPhone, it's in the form of the aptly named "Simple Passcode," a four, digit-only password. This totally gets the job done, but the number of possible 4-digit permutations is many times fewer than the combinations of infinitely few or many characters available using the full iOS keyboard.

This is why I believe that even a single character password will very likely keep your iPhone extremely secure. Just think about it. Someone grabs your iPhone, swipes to unlock, and sees a whole darn keyboard show up! Most people would start with the simple, word-based passwords like "password," "love," "apple," etc. They likely wouldn't try single character passwords.

But for those who still aren't convinced, consider the alternative: A single character password based on the "security through obscurity" method is a lot more secure than an iPhone with no passcode at all. If you don't use a password on your iDevice, I highly recommend giving this a shot. I promise, it doesn't hurt.


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Lee Dronick

Interesting idea and worth giving a try. When I am at home a passcode would not be necessary because if I lose the iPhone there the biggest threat is the dog chewing it up. However, when I am out and about then a passcode is more important. Just remember to enable the passcode when heading out.


Another tip: if all the characters in the non-“Simple Passcode” you enter are numbers, it shows the numeric keypad instead of the full keyboard, making entering it easier.


Two word for you:  multiple keyboards.


If this becomes at all common then people most certainly will start trying one character passwords at that screen. Also, if you focus on just the characters near the end of the swipe, that’s a smaller set that can be quickly checked by someone who has read this article.

John Martellaro

This technique could be even more effective when combined with the “Erase all data after 10 failed attempts.”

Michael Johnston

Intruder: Definitely an option, but it does cause more hassle in that you have to switch they keyboard layout back after unlocking your phone. You may also run into trouble if you disable that particular keyboard layout (although I haven’t tested that).

Webjprgm: I totally agree. And for those people who are a bit more concerned about security, they can use a key that’s further from the OK button, use a symbol, or even use a variation of the keys such as a ÿ instead of a plain y. And of course, this is supposed to be a gateway drug for non-password people to hopefully come around to the idea of using a password.


Interesting comment.
Maybe Apple should add the feature to check your location before locking the device (ie every 5 minutes) and allow you to set a geo-fence area where you can leave the phone unlocked (ie home).
I work from home so I am constantly entering the passcode. Gets annoying after a while.
Corporate requires passcodes.


Leighton L. Smith

when I attempt to set a “non-simple” passcode, and type in just one letter, I get an error that says the passcode must be longer. It seems to require at least 4 characters

I do not know if this is due to the MDM settings put on my phone by my company, but I was disappointed to say the least.

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