Physical to digital

A few months ago I stopped carrying a wallet, and switched to just carrying my iPhone, driver license, and debit card most days. Typically the iPhone is all that’s needed, but there are plenty of cases on the margin that end up requiring the two cards—usually getting into bars or getting cash.

These are the twin pillars holding up physical cards for verification and transactions, and stand in the way of Apple and others enabling consumers to completely ditch their physical wallets.

We’ll get there, but it’s anyone’s guess how quickly. I know Delaware and at least one other state is testing an iPhone app that would replace the driver license. But overall the driver license is probably the more difficult of the two cases, because it will require dozens of states jumping on board with the idea of app-based credentialing, and it’ll also require new infrastructure for police, restaurants, etc. to verify those licenses. Anecdotally, most bars in Pennsylvania seem to swipe the license through a system. That obviously won’t work with a customer’s iPhone. Ditto for cigarettes, liquor stores, etc.

On the cash side, it’ll require Apple taking the lead to partner with ATM networks to convert their machines to NFC compatibility. With Apple Pay, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to walk up to an ATM, place our phone near the screen, type in our PIN or just use TouchID, and get cash. Apple made a point to promote their work with vending machine companies when Apple Pay rolled out for similar NFC compatibility, so it seems natural to expect the same approach with the ATM networks.

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