Apple is rolling out the ability to add driver’s licenses and state IDs to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch in select US states, the company announced this week.
The first states to introduce this functionality are Arizona and Georgia, but Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah will follow. However, neither the states nor Apple have said exactly when the rollout will begin, other than giving an overall target for fall 2021.
Wallet is an app that comes preinstalled on iPhones and Apple Watch wearables. The app stores credit cards, boarding passes, student IDs, and other items that you might normally put in a physical wallet.
Wallet sometimes uses wireless communication to send relevant information (for example, credit card details at a point of sale), or a user can hold up the phone to show information to someone. Often a barcode or similar is used to allow the user to authenticate to a location without handing over the phone, such as with airline boarding passes.
Much of Apple’s editorial announcing the new driver’s license or status ID feature focuses on one specific use case: airports. The post highlights citations from the Transportation Security Agency supporting the move and a commitment from the TSA to accept digital IDs at airports in participating states. The idea is that users going through airport security can present both their boarding passes and their IDs in the app to avoid having to mess with their wallets in line.
After the announcement, many on Twitter and elsewhere noticed that they wouldn’t feel comfortable handing an unlocked phone to TSA or police officers, but at least as far as airport security goes, it doesn’t work that way.
Users store data related to their driver’s licenses or state IDs on their phones, but they will not show the ID on their phone screen to authorities. Instead, the information is delivered digitally, allowing users to present their IDs “by simply tapping their iPhone or Apple Watch against the identity reader,” according to Apple.
The process for adding a driver’s license or state ID to Wallet seems a little more complicated than with some other supported document and ID types. Here’s what Apple says users should do:
Just as customers add new credit and transit cards to Wallet today, they can tap the + button on their iPhone at the top of the screen in Wallet to add their license or ID. If the user has paired an Apple Watch to their iPhone, they will be prompted to also add their ID or driver’s license to their Wallet app on their Apple Watch. The customer is then asked to use their iPhone to scan their physical driver’s license or ID card and take a selfie, which is securely provided to the issuing state for verification. As an added security step, users are also prompted to perform a series of facial and head movements during the installation process. After verification by the issuing state, the customer’s ID or driver’s license will be added to Wallet.
And here are some details from Apple on how the TSA check-in process will work in participating states:
Once added to Wallet, customers can present their driver’s license or state ID to the TSA by simply tapping the ID reader with their iPhone or Apple Watch. By tapping on their iPhone or Apple Watch, customers will see a prompt on their device with the specific information requested by the TSA. Only after authorization with Face ID or Touch ID is the requested identity information released from their device, ensuring that only the required information is shared and only the person who added the driver’s license or state ID to the device can present it. Users don’t have to unlock, show or hand over their device to show their ID.
Following the announcement, Apple blogger John Gruber told users that only one fingerprint can be associated with the IDs on Touch ID devices to ensure that the IDs can only be used by the actual ID holder. (Many people store extra Touch ID fingerprints on their phones for family members or partners to use.)
Apple has not yet shared the status of calls with other states to bring the feature to additional locations.
List image by Apple