By adding a fingerprint scanner to its newest mobile phone, the iPhone 5S, Apple Inc is offering a tantalising glimpse of a future where your favourite gadget might become a biometric pass to the workplace, mobile commerce or real-world shopping and events and thereby save you from remembering so many irrelevant and mind-bogglingly difficult-to-remember passwords - a true memory marvel.
Although Apple Inc's executives said at Tuesday's launch that its Touch ID technology embedded into the iPhone 5S' home button would only provide fingerprint access to the phone and its own online stores, analysts said Apple's embrace of such technology, called biometrics, would be key to wider adoption.
"It really propels biometrics into the mainstream," said specialist Alan Goode, the UK-based managing director of research consultancy Goode Intelligence.
Jonathan Ive, Apple Inc's senior vice president of design, hinted of its future in a video presentation at the launch.
"Touch ID defines the next step of how you use your iPhone," he said, "making something as important as security so effortless and so simple."
Passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) have long been the mainstay of access to devices, bank accounts and online services, despite their poor record. Many passwords can easily be guessed, while others can be hacked by brute-force attacks - essentially a computer programme running through all possible permutations.
They also involve one too many steps for lots of users: Apple said that half of smartphone users don't bother to password-protect their devices.
Hence the appeal of biometrics, which take something unique to the individual - a fingerprint, an iris, voice or facial features - as authentication.
COMFORT FOR COMMERCE
Apple Inc' move may not have an immediate impact beyond improving the way users unlock their devices and interact with Apple services like iTunes and its App Store.
But that is itself a significant step. Apple has more than 500 million iTunes accounts. Anything that increases security and removes steps in the payment process is bound to boost online purchases.
It will also raise the comfort levels of companies supplying the content to a mobile commerce sector expected to reach $40 billion next year in the United States alone, according to Euromonitor estimates.
Users afraid of using their mobile device to make purchases online or in the real world because they fear it