So, you happen to have someone else’s iPhone in your hands. Interesting. I wouldn’t dare assume your intentions with it, and I won’t ask any questions. Plus, iPhones are pretty secure devices, so there’s not much you can do with it anyway, right? Wrong. As private as a locked iPhone may be, there are still plenty of functions and features at the ready for anyone daring enough to try.
Some of these options are contingent on certain security settings being enabled on the iPhone in question. If someone disabled access to one of these options on the Lock Screen, it’s not going to work for you. If you’d like to make some changes after reading what your iPhone allows people to use when locked, scroll to the bottom of this piece. I’ll also make note of the options you can disable on the Lock Screen as we go along.
You can use the camera
You likely know there are a few ways to quickly access the camera from the Lock Screen, whether it be from the shortcut in the bottom-right corner, swiping left on the screen, or using the Control Center tile. However, none of these options are blocked when an iPhone is locked, meaning anyone can access the camera at any time. You can take photos, record video, and use any of the photo mode options normally found in the Camera app.
That said, there’s not much you can do with a photo or video when shooting on a locked iPhone: You can tap the image’s thumbnail after snapping it to see all the photos and videos you took during that session, but only those images. You can also swipe up to view additional information about the photo or video, such as camera information and location, and you can favourite and delete images, but other options like Visual Look Up, sharing, and editing are locked away.
You can use the flashlight
This one’s another obvious tip, but one that needs to be mentioned: You can use the flashlight on an iPhone without unlocking it first. You can use the flashlight shortcut in the bottom-left corner of the Lock Screen, or use the Control Center tile (long-press to choose the brightness). Next time you have to light up a room, grab an iPhone, any iPhone.
You can access Today View
Today View (the assortment of widgets accessible via a right swipe on the Lock Screen) might not get as much use as Apple would like, but it’s chock-full of information, even by default. You can access it without unlocking an iPhone, meaning you can check out innocuous things like news headlines, weather reports, and stock information, in addition to more private information, such as a person’s recent music activity, photos, and calendar data.
Not all widgets will be accessible without unlocking the iPhone, however. For example, the Screen Time widget is totally blank until you authenticate yourself first. You can disable this option on the Lock Screen.
You can use search
You can swipe down on the Lock Screen to search for just about anything, whether or not the iPhone is unlocked. While iOS will shut you down if you try to open web links or apps, you can still access Siri Knowledge pages from Wikipedia or the dictionary. You can also access phone numbers for stores and other establishments, which we’ll circle back to soon. To give Apple some privacy props, contacts will not show up here, so you won’t be able to use search to learn more about an iPhone owner’s friends and family.
You can disable this option on the Lock Screen.
You can access Wallet
If Wallet is enabled on the Lock Screen, anyone can access it via a double click of the Side or home button, or from the Control Center tile. However, your credit cards will still require authentication, so traditional Apple Pay won’t work. What will work are NFC payments, such as swiping into a subway terminal, as well as any gift cards and rewards cards you have in Wallet that use a QR code. Wallet can be disabled on the Lock Screen.
You can access Home controls
If the iPhone in question is connected to smart devices via the Home app, you can control those devices if the iPhone is locked. The setting can be disabled, too.
You can use Siri
By default, Siri is available while your iPhone is locked. That’s pretty convenient, since there are times you can’t look at your iPhone when you want to ask the digital assistant a question. However, that means anyone can hold down your Side or Home button to ask Siri to do something. You can disable Siri on the Lock Screen, so it might not work on all iPhones you pick up.
While many tasks are unavailable without a passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID, there are actions Siri can take on your behalf. Many of these are the simple uses you’d expect from Siri, like answering questions or setting timers. But others are a bit surprising. Here are a few:
You can ask Siri to make a phone call
Using Siri, you can make a phone call to anybody, so long as you know the phone number. You can also ask to call contacts saved on the iPhone, if you know their name, as well as place calls to numbers you found using search. You can also return calls by default from their notification on the Lock Screen, but this setting can be disabled as well.
Yes, that means you can also make FaceTime calls using a locked iPhone.
You can ask Siri to play music and podcasts
Feeling kind of bored with someone else’s iPhone? Ask Siri to play some music for you. You’re limited, of course, to whatever streaming services or on-device library the owners has, but if Siri can access it, you’ll be listening in no time. If they have Apple Music and are running iOS 17.2, you can add any track to their Favorites album, just to sow a little chaos.
You can ask Siri to create reminders, notes, and calendar entires
Again, Siri is very “helpful” when an iPhone is locked. You can ask her to create reminders for any time you’d like, as well as add calendar entries for any event you can think of. Siri can also dictate notes, allowing you to clutter up the Notes app of whoever’s iPhone you happen to have.
You can access Control Center
Access to Control Center from the Lock Screen is an essential part of iPhone efficiency. However, it’s also accessible whether the iPhone is locked or not, meaning you can take a look at someone else’s Control Center (unless they disable the option in Settings).
While there are some controls here that require authentication before use, many do not. Some of these things are pretty minor, like the ability to toggle portrait orientation lock, as well as the brightness and volume controls. However, others are a bit more invasive. Let’s review those below:
You can play music from the Now Playing window
The Now Playing window in the top-right corner of Control Center can be accessed at all times. Tap the play button, and the iPhone will begin playing whatever is currently queued up, whether that’s a song, podcast, audiobook, etc. That goes for audio output as well: You can tap the AirPlay button to send that music to whatever source is available. You can also take control of one of the AirPlay sources to change what’s playing on that speaker.
You can control networks and communications
The window in the top-left corner of Control Center contains all the communications options, like Airplane Mode, cellular data, wifi, Bluetooth, AirDrop, and personal hotspot. All of these settings can be messed with at any time.
You can turn on Do Not Disturb (or another Focus)
All Focuses, including Do Not Disturb, are always available from Control Center. You can activate a Focus, which could lead to the owner missing out on important notifications without realising it.
You can activate screen mirroring
This one’s a bit of an odd security miss. The screen mirroring option is available at all times, meaning you can project the iPhone’s display to an AirPlay compatible source. While that projection is quite limited without the ability to unlock, there are obviously still things you can do on that iPhone to project to whoever’s watching.
You can access most Control Center tiles
The rest of Control Center’s features are found via “tile” controls. These are entirely customisable, so they’ll differ from iPhone to iPhone. However, there are 20 options available to use whether you’ve authenticated yourself or not, opening up a ton of utility for a locked iPhone. Here’s the full list of Control Center control tiles you can access at any time:
- Accessibility Shortcuts
- Announce Notifications (when available)
- Apple TV Remote
- Code scanner
- Dark Mode
- Hearing (background sounds, Live Listen, headphone accommodations)
- Low Power Mode
- Ping Watch
- Sound Recognition
- Text Size
The only Control Center tiles not available are Screen Recording, Guided Access, and Voice Memos, which are three options that definitely shouldn’t be available to just anybody. However, the same could be said for other options, such as Alarms. I don’t want people having access to my alarms without my permission: You could turn off an important alarm without me knowing, or, worse yet, set an alarm for something terrible like 3 a.m.
Even something like Text Size poses potential disaster. With it, you could instantly change the font size of a person’s entire iPhone, ranging anywhere from 80% all the way to 135%. You can also target specific apps, so you can have them wondering why their Messages app is the same font size as their parents’.
You can power off the iPhone
If you can’t access a locked iPhone, you can sure turn it off. On most iPhone models, hold the volume up button and Side button together until the “slide to power off” option appears.
You can access Medical ID
Using this same button gesture, you can access a person’s Medical ID, and thank goodness. This option lets you see important medical information for the owner of the iPhone in the event that person cannot tell you themselves.
You can access Emergency SOS
In the event of an emergency, you can use this same button gesture to access the Emergency SOS feature, which will allow you to contact the authorities from an iPhone. However, you should also be able to ask Siri to dial 911. (For obvious reasons, I cannot test this one out.)
You can access USB accessories
This setting is actually disabled by default, so it likely won’t work. However, if not, you can use USB accessories on a locked iPhone. These days, that most likely translates to plugging an iPhone into a computer, or using CarPlay via USB.
Everything you can disable on your iPhone’s Lock Screen
If, as you’re holding someone else’s locked iPhone, you’re thinking to yourself, “You know, I don’t like that people can use Siri to call my friends,” there are settings to solve those problems. While you can’t lock up your Lock Screen like Fort Knox, you can plug up some of the major security holes.
Go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode), then scroll down to ALLOW ACCESS WHEN LOCKED. All of the items here can be disabled, so they won’t be accessible until you unlock your iPhone. They include:
- Today View and Search
- Notification Center
- Control Center
- Lock Screen Widgets
- Reply with Message
- Home Control
- Return Missed Calls
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