A user's face would in effect be the password to unlock the phone, the patent filing indicated.
Any device equipped with the technology would create a unique facial "password" by scanning the user's face and recording all of its unique features such as texture, color, size and shape, CNET reported Tuesday.
Users could run the process for any other person to whom they want to grant access.
When the phone receives in incoming call it would scan the face of the person holding the phone to make sure it matches that of an authorized user. If it recognizes the face the call would be allowed to go through; if not, the phone would remain locked.
Though apparently aimed directly at smartphones, Apple's patent filing also mentions other uses including TVs and personal computers.
Apple has used technological security measures before, introducing its Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S.