Apple Plays on Your Horribly Human Memory to Promote Face ID

Because what's more secure than your face?

In its latest film plugging the features of a phone whose sales just barely slid past analyst muster, Apple showcases the advantages of Face ID using the fallibility of human memory. 

In "Memory," a game show contestant sits across from a host on a long black table. Before them is a massive audience, dressed more for the opera than anything akin to "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," lending it a dreamlike quality.

From a production perspective, it's a beautiful piece of work.

"And now for your final memory challenge," the host intones. "Are you ready? This morning, you created an online banking password. What is it?" 

Gasps all around. Interrogation-style shots of our stuttering guest, breathless women, crying babies and grotesque close-ups of mocking spectators. The host's hand approaches a red button as the music winds up the tension.

Will he remember, ladies and gentlemen? Can you…?

iPhone X — Memory— Apple

There's a story people like to tell about how Albert Einstein, our yardstick for smarts, couldn't remember his own phone number and didn't even bother trying. "Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book?" he allegedly said. It's supposed to be a lesson in not wasting your mind's capabilities on useless tasks. 

The subtext of "Memory" gives it vivid application. As tech advances, we're in a constant arms race against hackers looking to poach what remains of privacy. And because companies get blamed when data goes missing, the demands they make on customers are destabilizing at best—we have to change passwords every month or so, and give them increasing levels of complexity. 

If you aren't using a password vault (and really, why aren't you?), this makes otherwise banal tasks a game-show-caliber challenge. 

Face ID's value add is as blunt as this new spot's conclusion. Our contestant looks down at his phone in panic. The password page magically unlocks, and he looks around to find himself not onstage but in a café. 

"Your face is your password," the ad proclaims. It doesn't even need an exclamation point, because you can hear it in the music's triumphant finale!

The iPhone X Face ID feature has suffered technical problems in recent news (what doesn't?). But when it works well, it feels nothing short of miraculous: You literally raise the phone to your face and it responds like a puppy that's glad you're home. Its front-facing TrueDepth camera creates a depth map of your face that essentially serves as a unique ID. 

Maybe Einstein would be pleased to know how much more brain power we have available to us. 

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is a founding contributor to Muse. She is also the co-founder of esports agency Hurrah.gg, and co-author of Generation Creation.