The Rock’s Apple Ad Gives Great Siri Tips (and Questionable Security Advice)

July 24, 2017, 11:29 PM UTC

Dwayne Johnson, the actor, producer, and former pro wrestler, wants to “dominate the day” in a commercial for Apple that offers tips for using Siri, the company’s digital personal assistant. With the help of the voice-enabled technology, he jet-sets across the globe, tackles to-do lists, and crushes calendar entries.

It’s a fun romp designed to show iPhone owners some of what Siri can do. But there’s a catch: In order to keep up with The Rock’s iPhone, you may need to make yours less secure.

The YouTube video, which premiered today, begins innocently enough with Johnson asking his iPhone to perform simple tasks like reading his schedule, showing a to-do list, and contacting Lyft for a ride to the airport—all commands that Siri can do without a problem. But Johnson relies heavily on the “Hey Siri” feature, a way to summon Siri without pushing the home button.

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This feature has existed for years, but it’s one that Apple hasn’t highlighted much. Activating the voice prompt can make Siri work faster and better—much like Alexa with Amazon’s Echo home speaker—as The Rock demonstrates in the ad.

Eventually, the high-energy star goes into stuntman mode, and his iPhone follows. While dangling from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Johnson says, “Hey Siri, read me my last email.”

The iPhone dutifully replies—but not like mine does. When I ask it to read an email, Siri prompts me to unlock my iPhone first, a step that Apple never shows on-screen during the promotional video. The same thing happens when I ask to view photos, a task Johnson requests later.

Although you can’t see what The Rock does with his iPhone before making his requests, it would appear that the A-lister doesn’t enter a passcode. The phone’s lock appears to be disabled, a security option that would make it easy for anyone who steals the Fast & Furious star’s smartphone to access his passwords, credit cards, and other important data.

Of course, you can make the argument that Johnson’s passcode is enabled, and that Apple just used creative license and movie magic to cut the step from the ad. But if the point of the video is to demonstrate how Siri makes things easier, most iPhone owners will quickly see a disconnect between their experience and what’s in the commercial.

But using celebrities like Johnson to show off hands-free Siri use is smart business for Apple. According to a recent report by Verto Analytics, even though Siri is the most-used voice assistant with 7.3 million monthly users, engagement with the technology among iPhone owners has fallen by nearly half in the past year. Amazon’s Alexa, meanwhile, is on the rise, up 325% in the year since May 2016, with 2.8 million users to date.

When Apple’s home speaker HomePod is released later this fall, Siri will finally go head-to-head with Alexa in homes. To get a foothold in that new market, Apple will have to continue to show that its assistant is capable, passcode or not.

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