Getting blue speech bubbles in your Messages app, instead of green ones from non-iPhones, is presumably Apple’s method of embedding devices. But more than that, Apple Wallet is suddenly becoming the reason to keep using an iPhone – it keeps the device sticky so existing owners don’t go bankrupt. It’s been a slow burn to create this must-have app, but now with its hook in a few key areas like Apple Pay, ID cards, and event tickets, it can become increasingly difficult to live without with the Apple Wallet.
While attending a baseball game in San Diego Padres recently, I noticed how prominent Apple Wallet is now for event tickets. Ticketmaster, for example, is quick to suggest using Apple Wallet in a location in case connectivity is limited or unavailable. This was also the same coverage across all sports for a Warriors NBA Finals game.
We’re getting to 10 years since Apple originally introduced Passbook, which turned into Apple Wallet in 2015. Android phones can handle tickets and NFC payments just fine, but the number of users is lagging behind Apple’s because functionality is split between Google, Samsung and others who provide wallet apps.
With the foundations laid over the past decade, Apple is stepping on the accelerator to make Apple Wallet inescapable, for better or for worse. Apps may soon receive identity and age verification (powered by the rollout of digital driver’s licenses); flying and other government checkpoints should be faster; and a pay later service is available. These things are all made possible to make Apple Wallet on iPhone a familiar and important part of everyday life.
State ID cards and driver’s licenses have finally gone digital. Arizona and Maryland are among the first states in the US to allow residents to add these state-issued cards to Apple Wallet. More than a dozen other states are currently in the process of enabling digitization from mid-2022 as well. At first, this advancement feels a little scary, but so far Apple has shown that it builds these experiences with solid security in mind.
In addition, the benefits of having a digital driver’s license or identity card can be enormous. In June, Apple showed at its developers conference how someone could buy alcohol using only an app with a government-sanctioned ID in Apple Wallet, because the app could verify that a person is over 21 years old.
These new software hooks that developers can use to get Wallet-specific answers about someone allow people to keep their date of birth and address secret, but can still confirm, for example, that they are over a certain age. In this way, digital IDs are more secure than handing a card to a bartender in person. Theoretically, this future would mean that a police officer, TSA agent, or any food service app can verify only the information they need, and nothing more.
A new feature coming to Apple Wallet is Apple Pay Later. As the name suggests, people using Apple’s contactless payment system don’t have to pay the full amount for their purchase and can put some money off until later, over time.
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that most of the stores I shop at support Apple Pay. It’s not just national chains like Target or CVS either; they are all kinds of shops that have contactless NFC supported terminals. With Apple Pay Later, you can split each purchase into four equal payments with no interest, with each card linked through Apple Pay.
PayPal, Affirm, and Afterpay already offer these types of payment plans, but now that Apple is adding the feature to Wallet, people may feel more compelled to stick with Apple Pay. In addition, this “Buy Now, Pay Later” feature is all managed through Apple Wallet as a single point of consolidation.
Tap to pay
If one half of the equation is consumer demand for Apple Pay, the other half is merchant adoption and encouragement of consumer use. Announced in February and rolling out later in 2022, Tap to Pay will allow approved merchants to use only an iPhone to accept Apple Pay payments. Instead of needing additional hardware or payphones, people can pay from iPhone to iPhone.
While Tap to Pay isn’t really intended to be a consumer-to-consumer feature, it allows home technicians, mom-and-pop stores, and other retailers to interact directly with consumers in secure and modern ways. It is an extension of Apple Pay that makes people use Apple Wallet more often.
Home keys in Apple Wallet
Typing a passcode for a smart home lock is easier than carrying a physical key, but Apple’s home key is surprisingly even easier. When I reviewed the Schlage Encode Plus smart home lock, I was pleasantly surprised by the home key feature. This digital key can be stored in Apple Wallet where it is available, such as on an iPhone or Apple Watch. No calling Siri or remembering a code. Simply double-click the side button on either product and press and hold the visible home key next to the lock.
Even if you are not ready to use Apple Wallet for financial cards yet, it is useful to use it for keys. It’s not just house keys in Apple Wallet, though; soon it will also be car keys. I can’t comment on Apple’s specific implementation of digital car keys, but I know firsthand that having your car key on your phone is great. Tesla uses its app as a key to its cars, and all you have to do is walk up to the vehicle with your phone and it unlocks and starts — no bulky key fob needed.
Apple Wallet is gaining steam
Separately, each of these pieces of Apple Wallet is neat, but probably not life-changing. But as the benefits grow and all these mod cons become available in Apple Wallet, the app can be hard to avoid.
I’m lucky that I don’t have to carry keys to my house or car with me. My credit and debit cards are all available in Apple Wallet. In addition, my vaccination card, Starbucks card, health insurance, auto insurance, and loyalty cards are all digital. Now all I need is California to work with Apple to get his driver’s license into Apple Wallet so I can completely get rid of my physical wallet. And once I don’t have a wallet with me and my life is in Apple Wallet, it becomes much more difficult to switch from an iPhone.