A man displays his iPhone 4 in New York City.
A man displays his iPhone 4 in New York City. - 
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BOB MOON: Are you a jailbreaker? For years, users of the Apple iPhone have been engaging in that practice. We're talking about hacking into your cell phone, so you can use software that hasn't been sold and authorized by Apple. The government recently decided the practice is not illegal. But it also didn't stop phone makers from doing what they can to stop it.

And now, Apple is turning to the U.S. patent office as Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports.

JEREMY HOBSON: Apple has applied for a patent that would allow it to identify unauthorized jailbreakers. It could take pictures of users, record their voices, even monitor their heartbeats. If unauthorized use is suspected, Apple could restrict access or even delete information from the phone.

Tech analyst Charles Golvin with Forrester Research says it's probably not as devious as it sounds, that Apple simply wants more control over the user experience.

CHARLES GOLVIN: I think the idea that your iPhone would constantly be monitoring your heartbeat and acting in a very Big-Brother-like way is pretty far from, I think, the Apple ideal of how customers experience their products. And I think it's unlikely that they would go to that extreme.

Apple is refusing to comment. Tech analyst Rob Enderle says the company may have another motive in mind -- to compete with its more secure rivals in the market for business customers.

ROB ENDERLE: It really does look to be more along the lines of securing the phone, and allowing the phone to better address the competitive threat represented by Blackberry and to a much lesser extent Microsoft.

The Patent Office says it may take a year or more for any final word on Apple's patent application.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson