The iPhone lock screen has letters under the numbers, which is weird for me, I'm not enabling any advanced lock screen which requires letters at all.

The passcode is 4 digits.


Why would apple add this feature from the UX point of view, or is it a "bug" ?

I'm sure such a thing wouldn't be easy to slip from whoever is doing the testing and the usability assurance.

2 Answers 2


If you're in the US, why don't you call Apple and ask them.

Apple have a dedicated iPhone helpline.

The number is 1-800-694-7466

Or if you find it easier to remember, it's 1-800-MY-IPHONE

EDIT It seems I'm just too funny for words, so here's a more direct and unfunny answer:

Some people may use a letter mapping of the numbers. They might do this because it's easier to remember - people of all ages and abilities use smartphones! Or they might do it because that's how they did it on a previous phone, or because they've use the same system on another device or product - Android and others also have the same number/letter mapping. They might use the same passcode/word on their TV set top box - it doesn't matter why - the option is just there.

People may like to keep things simple to use so would rather opt to use a 4 digit pin rather than a password with numbers and letters.

A proper password needs to have a keyboard entry which is significantly more fiddly than the 10 button input above. People who want the security but who have difficulty using the keyboard really don't want to have to be forced to use the keyboard every time they wake the phone or when they need to enter the passcode during other protected tasks.

Note that you can opt to use a longer passcode but have the same 10 key entry system so long as you only use numbers in the code. For longer numbers it's even more useful to have the letter mapping to make it easier to recall.

So - the options are there for different people to make choices and use the system in a way that works best for them - whatever that is, and without compromising the usability for those who just enter 4 digits without caring about the letters.

It's no good saying 'Well I don't use it' or 'That wouldn't work for me'. The point is that the design is as inclusive as possible in order to cater for everyone to use their preferred method.

Look at it another way: By removing the letters, Apple would be effectively directly targeting those people who prefer to map their simple passcode onto letters, and making their life more difficult. And what would be the point of that?

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    @EvilClosetMonkey If you read between the lines you'll see that I'm wittily hinting at an appropriately humourous kind of meta-answer, albeit predictably too obfuscated for some! :) Jan 4, 2015 at 21:20
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    Evil Closet Monkey's face is red. I obviously need to read between lines more often. My ability to capture wit is apparently lacking today (perhaps other days too). :) Jan 4, 2015 at 21:25
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    This made me laugh a lot
    – DLM
    Jan 4, 2015 at 23:01
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    @lalachka [sigh] My point is letters are easier to remember than numbers especially if you make them into a word. Forget the phone call side of things. Forget the helpline. Connect the fact that the number 6947466 is easier remembered as MY-IPHONE. Forget this is a phone number and pretend it's a passcode. Now pretend it was four digits - or four letters - like your passcode is 6947 (wow what if it actually was - freaky!) might be easier to remember (or check) as MY-IP. See? Jan 5, 2015 at 8:03
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    @lalachka you make a lot of assumptions with your comments. Just because you use a memorable set of numbers, doesn't mean that everyone does. People remember pin codes as patterns, numbers, codes, dates etc. All the pin entry method is is a way of inputting the same combination of items each time. The buttons could each have pictures of different cats for all that it matters, provided the user can enter the same combination each time. Whatever helps people remember that combination is what matters.
    – JonW
    Jan 5, 2015 at 10:03

When typed, the passcode doesn't show up at all. So a user may think of their passcode as either letters or numbers and it will have no bearing on the software.

In other words, the letters are there for those who may think of their passcode as letters, or who may use the letters as a way to remember their passcode. Removing the letters helps no one, but keeping them allows for these use cases.

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    My mother is actually one of these people. When I asked her passcode she recited it to me as the 4-letter word equivalent. Jan 4, 2015 at 20:56

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