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Custom numeric passcodes on iPhone

Posted in Apple

I’ve been keen to ditch the 6 digit passcode I use to unlock my iPhone for a while now, as even a short alphanumeric code is so much more secure:

A four-number passcode … would take on average about seven minutes to guess. If it’s six digits, it would take on average about 11 hours. Eight digits: 46 days. Ten digits: 12.5 years … A six-character alphanumeric passcode would take on average 72 years to guess

Imagine how much extra security a seventh or eighth (or beyond) alphanumeric character would add! But the frequency I have to use my passcode these days has meant I haven’t switched from the 6 digit code yet.

Changing your passcode

Changing the default 6 character passcode to something more secure is pretty straightforward. Go to Settings → Face ID & Passcode → Enter your old passcode → Change Passcode → Enter your old passcode → Passcode Options.

The password options you’re presented with are:

  • Custom Alphanumeric Code
  • Custom Numeric Code
  • 4-Digit Numeric Code

Auto-submit

If you choose 4-Digit Numeric Code or enter 6 digits for a Custom Numeric Code, once you’ve pressed the last number successfully it logs you straight in. There’s some extra friction with a Custom Alphanumeric Code or a Custom Numeric Code of anything other than 6 digits: you have to press an ‘OK’ button to submit the code.

Not only is there an extra button press, but the button is above the number pad, to the right of the input field, making it trickier to reach; especially for folk like me who hold their phone in their left hand.

It would be nice if Apple removed the need to submit the passcode; maybe the reasoning is that it would make it slightly less secure, but I’d be happy adding an extra digit or two to avoid using two hands to unlock my phone.

Balance

I enjoy how easy it is to punch out a passcode on those big numeric keypad buttons; especially when wearing gloves as I have been over these winter months. I also enjoy not having to press a button to submit a code when I’ve entered it.

On the other hand, I like that a longer numeric passcode (or an alphanumeric one of the same length as my current numeric code) increases the time needed to break into my phone from hours to years.

Once iOS 14.5 is released, I’ll no longer have to use my passcode as often (any time I’m wearing a mask), so that’ll be the time to switch from the convenience of 6 digits. Let’s just hope nobody pinches my iPhone before then!

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