Will Leather Wallets Become a Thing of the Past?

The Apple Wallet app is built into the iPhone. You don’t have to use it, but you can’t get rid of it either. I suspect most of us will end up using it much more in the days ahead. I use the Wallet app mostly on my Apple Watch. Currently, my Wallet contains the following:

  • American Express credit card
  • Apple (Goldman Sachs) credit card
  • Apple Cash card
  • Best Western Rewards card
  • Boarding passes
  • Carrabba’s Promo card
  • Citi Mastercard
  • Eventbrite tickets
  • Hilton hotel card
  • Marriott BONVoY card
  • Stop&Shop grocery store card
  • Starbucks Card
  • Uber VISA credit card

Most places where I purchase or dine accept Apple Pay, which works with any of the credit cards. You simply double click the button on the side of the watch and twist the crown to pick the card you want to use, based on promotions, points, or rebates. The iPhone is equally as easy, just double click the side button and it opens your Wallet and displays your credit cards, etc. The pandemic accelerated Apple Pay adoption because of its contactless payment method, you don’t have to touch anything other than your own devices.

The potential of the Apple Wallet is far greater than what we can do today. An obvious use would be for storing and displaying your vaccination card and Covid test results. Unfortunately, the idea of a vaccination passport became politicized, and efforts got stalled. A new opportunity on the horizon is to store your driver license.

Apple has been working on the driver license project for years. Each of the 50 states has its own rules and procedures, so it will take a long time to get them all recognizing digital driver licenses. Apple is actively working with Arizona and Georgia. Others which are expected to follow include Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah.

The first organization to begin accepting a digital driver license will be the TSA. Only a state ID is required for domestic flights. The TSA will probably roll out the digital approach at a few airports at first. The way it will work is just like Apple Pay. You would tap your phone or watch close to an identity reader. There would be no requirement to hand your phone to anyone.

The tricky part is how to get your digital license verified by the state and stored on your iPhone in a way a fraudster cannot get stolen or fake IDs on a phone. There have been no announcements about how this will be done, but I am pretty sure I know how. There will probably be a state app or possibly a state button in the Wallet app. The first step would be to authenticate with your iPhone with either Touch ID (fingerprint) or Face ID (faceprint). After authentication, you would take a picture of your license and a selfie of yourself. Next you would upload both pictures. Secure software in the cloud would analyze the two images and determine if you are the person whose picture is on the license. After authentication and authorization, the state will provide a digital version of your driver license which you download and insert it into your Wallet app. Nevertheless, privacy concerns will be raised for sure, but I am confident Apple will convince reviewers the process is safe, secure, and private. I am sure Apple will say they will not have any record of when and where you use the new Wallet digital license feature.

Digitizing driver licenses does not solve any big problems, it simply provides convenience. The Apple Wallet started with event tickets and boarding passes. Later, came credit cards, student IDs, and subway tickets. I suspect passports will eventually live in the Wallet. Other possibilities will be crypto wallet, voter IDs, proof of vaccinations and tests. Some people will still prefer carrying cash if they can find anyone who accepts it but, eventually, leather wallets will be a thing of the past.