On Monday, Apple announced that iOS 15 and watchOS 8 will bring support for storing ID cards in the Wallet application. While the feature sounds fantastic in practice, the details are sparse and there’s still a lot we don’t know about when and how this will work.
Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey announced the feature during Apple’s WWDC 2021 keynote. Bailey explained during the keynote that this is the final thing that Apple needs to bring to the Wallet app to let you be “fully free of your physical wallet.” She also said that the TSA is “working to enable” airport security checkpoints as “the first place you can use your digital ID.”
The full announcement:
To be fully free of your physical wallet, there’s one more thing we need to bring to iPhone. And that’s your ID. So we’re bringing identity cards to Apple Wallet. This fall, you’ll just scan your drivers license or state ID in participating US states. It’s that easy. Your ID information is now in Wallet. Encrypted and stored in the Secure Element, the same hardware element technology that makes Apple Pay private and secure.
And the TSA is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place you can use your digital ID. When you present your ID, you’ll know what specific information is requested and securely present it. With just a tap, you’re off to your flight.
The keynote include a few mockups of how this feature will work. The process of adding your ID to Wallet looks as if it will be similar to adding a credit card to Apple Pay.
The TSA interface is specifically interesting. You won’t just present your ID to the TSA agent. Instead, it appears there will be some sort of Apple Pay-style interaction that involves double clicking the side button on your iPhone to share the necessary information.
Availability and other details
Unfortunately, other details about support for ID cards in Wallet is incredibly vague. First and foremost, we have no specific details on when the feature will be available. A footnote on Apple’s website simply says that the feature will launch sometime in “late 2021,” and as Bailey said during the keynote, Apple is taking a state-by-state approach to rolling this out. If the rollout of the COVID-19 Exposure Notification platform is any indication, expect this to be a slow and convoluted process.
There are also few details on acceptance. For instance, Apple specifically says that TSA checkpoints will be “the first place you can use your digital ID.” Does this mean you won’t be able to use a digital ID for other things? What if you get pulled over? There are a lot of unanswered about how the specifics here will work.
This certainly sounds like a feature that will be incredibly useful, when and if it becomes available in your state. Not to mention, there is absolutely no indication on when this feature will become available internationally.
Nonetheless, it’s very interesting and notable to see Apple laying the groundwork for digital ID cards in Wallet. Even if there are still many unanswered questions, and only vague details about availability, this could be the type of feature that is commonplace several years from now.
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