This is what so many so called “tech reporters” neglect to say when they criticize Apple as being ‘closed’, implying that Apple is causing the launch delay: how can we expect it to work on iPhone Wallet when the MIC can’t even get it working on ‘open’ Osaifu Keitai Android? As previously outlined, I think we can expect Digital My Number in the iOS 17 cycle later (much later) in the cycle rather than launch time, though we could see a mention at the September 2023 Apple Event. Late spring or early summer 2024, say WWDC24, should be the best timing for My Number ID card in Wallet. There is one little problem however…
All bets are off if Japan tries to force Apple into ‘opening’ iPhone to 3rd party app stores; we can forget about My Number ID in Wallet. That’s the card Tim Cook played with PM Kishida at the climax conclusion of his and Greg Joswiak’s week long, hastily cooked, Japan PR tour that smelled of self-interest instead of sincerity. The sudden love-fest visit after years of taking the Japan market for granted was a setup. MacRumors Juli Clover covers the bases of the situation outlined in the Nikkei report who quote the usual unnamed sources. Nikkei’s last big story of 2022 fit nicely with the ‘Apple doesn’t want to put digital My Number ID iPhone’ narrative they pushed throughout the year. It will be interesting watching the choices the Japanese government makes in 2023: digital My Number ID in Wallet, or 3rd party app stores. Apple has made it clear that Japan can’t have it both ways.
Previous coverage: Digital My Number on track for Android 2022 launch, Apple Wallet due in 2023 The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) digital version of My Number Card (Individual Number Card) is on track to launch in 2022 (October-ish?). The latest MIC Work Group PDF document has a full outline of the digital My Number system and the various services the Japanese government plans to link with it. In late 2020 MIC said they were ‘in discussions’ with Apple to bring digital My Number to Wallet and this has not changed. Nikkei reporter Mayumi Hirosawa saw a chance to grab some eyeballs and published, The My Number iPhone Wall, a typical Nikkei ‘article’ of lazy, subjective, puerile observations angled as big bad Apple, but nothing new.
Meanwhile Yasuhiro Koyama’s online article on Keitai Watch is far more interesting and informative. MIC official Takashi Uekariya, the goto My Number digital guy, says the MIC and Apple are ‘working hard’ to bring digital My Number to Apple Pay Wallet, and that because Apple locks down new iOS features far in advance, timing wise it looks like iOS 17 in fall 2023 is the likely target for My Number on Apple Wallet. It would be nice though if Apple could surprise us later on in the iOS 16 release cycle, always good to raise the bar and deliver above expectations.
Looking at the larger picture, MIC documentation clearly states that My Number digital card requires a GlobalPlatform embedded Secure Element (GPSE) device, and that except for a small amount of SIM Free Android junk, most smartphones sold in Japan (both Apple and Android) are GPSE certified. An interesting sidelight is that ‘FeliCa chip’ Osaifu Keitai Android devices will support My Number NFC-B transactions. Going forward that means nobody in Japan will buy a device without a GPSE that doesn’t support My Number digital card and the associated banking services that will link to it. Kiss HCE goodbye.
2023-03-10 UPDATE: Digital Honcho Taro Kono confirmed that Digital My Number ID for Android launches May 11.
But I don’t. In this age of shut up when we tell you to shut up big corporate and social media, I get suspicious when east coast journalists start trolling a big new ‘scoop’ at the same time. Why now and why these guys? Why do they ask the same questions? Do they hang out at the same bar and share story notes, or did somebody feed them the story and the sources? Both pieces outline some of the agreements Apple made with states and the restrictions/conditions Apple has in place to provide ID in Wallet for driver’s licenses.
When a story like this breaks from multiple outlets just before a service launch, and there is every indication Apple plans to release ID in Wallet with the iOS 15.2 update, I smell somebody’s agenda. A somebody who wants to upend Apple Pay’s ID in Wallet launch cart. This is the way to do it.
As Mikula is a former Goldman Sachs guy where he learned how to fleece things, he provides important context to the story that CNBC does not:
Multiple ID verification (“IDV”)…is big business — according to a company in the space, Mitek Systems, it was worth an estimated $7.6 billion in 2020 and will grow to nearly $16 billion by 2025. Socure, a company offering IDV services, just raised $450m at a $4.5 billion valuation — an increase in value of ~2.5x from earlier this year.
What Apple’s Secret DMV Contracts Tell Us
I wrote about iOS 15 ID in Wallet earlier this year:
There is another aspect to consider, one that Apple certainly won’t divulge: who manages and runs the backend centralized mobile ID issue service that plugs into Apple Pay servers…There has to be a partner service company that sub-contracts mobile ID issue services to participating state governments…somebody that does the heavy lifting of linking various state database servers to provide a centralized card issuing service so that Apple can provide a seamless ID add card experience. But it must be an independent entity that can provide the same set of backend ID issue services to other digital wallet platforms (Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.) at some point. Because if it is not an independent entity providing those services, Apple is inviting more claims that Apple Pay is a monopoly. It’s a mystery worth digging into.
Beyond defining Digital Identity Credentials that are the key part of the ‘restrictive’ agreements between the states and Apple, there are no system details. Nada. Certainly nothing like the system diagram from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) English PDF document: First Summary Toward the Realization of Electronic Certificates for Smartphones, that outlines how the digital ID system architecture for the Individual Number Card (My Number) works. A white paper from Apple explaining how ID in Wallet works both on the device and in the cloud, is key to understanding how secure ID in Wallet is, and how restrictive the agreements are. Without one, Apple puts itself, and Apple Pay ID in Wallet at risk in the political environment that is state government contractor relations. Asking users to simply trust a black box doesn’t fly in this security risk adverse, privacy conscious age.
As nothing has been released yet, and we have no white paper or anything else from Apple, I think discussion is pointless at this point. Questions are a good thing but are CNBC and Mikula asking good questions? I think the sudden ‘we’re protecting the tax payers and good citizens’ angle is highly suspect when CNBC has been a highly partisan mouthpiece always on the side of establishment government and establishment corporate America… a media company who asked nothing about big pharma’s role in the COVID hysteria driven vaccination program for example, or why Pfizer etc. are exempt for any and all side-effects of their experimental vaccinations, all while demonizing the good citizens who want those questions asked.
After all, privatization of government services is so entrenched at this point nobody really questions it anymore. Wouldn’t it be better to ask why states want to sign up for ID in Wallet, what they want to get out of it and why, why, why? Could it be that states want a successful digital ID service people will actually use? Not sexy enough I guess. If you ask me, I think some government contractor in the IDV business, and their supporters, stand to loose out in a big way if ID in Wallet is a success and used some connections to slam a media outrage ball into Apple’s court. Let the games begin.
iOS 15 Wallet is deceptive. The first impression out of the box is that nothing has changed much. It looks the same, it works the same. It doesn’t help that many of the new features won’t come until later in the iOS 15 life cycle and will be limited to certain users and regions. ID in Wallet for example is only due to launch in eight American states ‘late 2021’. Wallet keys for home only work on A12 Bionic iPhone XS and later while office and hotel key “device requirements may vary by hotel and workplace.” In Japan the iOS 15 Wallet feature section is missing altogether. The fine print reads like Apple is giving itself the biggest set of loophole opt outs ever, as if to say, ‘sorry, better luck later on.’
This is because Wallet key and ID cards are exactly like the Apple Pay launch in 2014 when the contactless payment infrastructure in America at the time was way behind Europe and Japan. The contactless transition has been bumpy, uneven and continues to plod along while stores have been slow getting their act together. Early Apple Pay adopters grew accustomed to hearing that classic gag line at checkout when things didn’t work right: “you’re holding it wrong.”
Wallet keys and ID will see a gradual measured uptake just like Apple Pay payment and transit cards. But unlike payment cards and transit cards, the reader infrastructure side of the equation for digital keys and ID cards is only just beginning. For some people it may be years before they have the opportunity to use digital key with their car, home or apartment. The initial use for Wallet ID, TSA security checks for domestic US air travel, represents only a small subset of a much wider future potential. How long will it be before state government services are fully equipped to read their own digital issue ID? And what about in-app ID checks, there’s huge but undeveloped potential there too.
Apple is leading the digital wallet transition for keys and ID as they did for payments when Apple Pay launched in 2014. Sure, there are others already doing it on a limited scale and Apple may be late to the party, but because Apple takes the time to make complex things easy to use and get it right, eventually it’s everywhere. Even without keys and ID, iOS 15 Wallet offers some deeply useful UI improvements that will remove a lot of frustration for all Wallet users. Let’s take a look.
New Add to Wallet UI The new Add to Wallet screen with card categories is the gateway to new iOS Wallet features, it also solves long standing UI problems that confused users for adding transit cards. The main categories:
Debit or Credit Card Add debit/credit, the same process we’ve had all along.
Transit Card The add Transit Card category is new and lists all available transit cards that support direct Wallet card add and Apple Pay recharge. Transit cards that can only be added and recharged via an app such as Portland HOP and Chicago Ventra are not included. Some transit cards on the list are somewhat deceptive. Hong Kong Octopus and China T-Union cards cannot be added without certain locally issued credit/debit cards but you only get the warning message at the very end of the addition process that aborts it. The only transit cards that anybody from anywhere can add to Wallet are: Suica, PASMO, SmarTrip, Clipper and TAP.
Previous Cards Previous Cards is a new category that appears only when needed. It shows cards, keys and passes that are attached to the user Apple ID but are not currently in Wallet.
The region-free Wallet These seemly mundane UI tweaks are much bigger than they look. Before iOS 15, Wallet did not make a clear distinction between first time card issue (adding a card) and re-adding previous cards that were already attached to the user’s Apple ID. Adding cards to Wallet was also region dependent, that is to say users had to set the iPhone region to match the issuer region to add those cards. This has been a real pain for transit cards: Japan to add Suica, Hong Kong to add Octopus, America to add SmarTrip, Clipper or TAP.
Changing the device region is easy to do, but it’s not intuitive at all and bewildered users. It’s not uncommon for people to think that changing the region messes up the Apple Pay cards they already have making them unusable, or that a certain region setting is required to use a particular card.
Neither is true, but region-dependent Wallet was a big source of confusion that kept people from using great Wallet features and caused support problems, especially for transit card users. Do a Suica search on Apple Support Communities. The number one support issue is: I lost my Suica card, how do I get it back in Wallet?
The new UI fixes this problem by making a clear distinction between removing Wallet cards vs. deleting them. Wallet has a simple rule: removing a card added in Wallet does not delete the card but stores then on iCloud. Cards added in Wallet and keys are hooked into the user’s Apple ID. This is easy to see in Suica App which displays the unique Apple ID/Apple Pay identifier for each Suica card.
The pain point was the inability to see what cards were still attached to their Apple ID sitting on the Apple Pay iCloud server when not in Wallet. Most people assume a card not is Wallet is lost forever, the classic ‘I lost my Suica’ problem described above. This happened all the time in pre-iOS 15 Wallet when the user signed out of Apple ID without realizing it or migrated to a new iPhone without doing Wallet housecleaning on the old device. Removed cards were always parked safely in iCloud but there was no easy way to see them. With Previous Cards and region-free Wallet, you always know where to find your Wallet cards.
Knowing exactly where your Wallet cards are, in Wallet or parked on the server, and how to really truly delete them from the cloud, makes using Apple Pay easier. When users understand that Apple Pay has their back, they trust and use it more. Trust is far more important than technology.
From now on the new rules are: removing a card only removes it from Wallet. Only the extra step of removing a credit/debit card from Previous Cards removes it completely from Apple ID. Stored value cards like Suica can only be deleted with the card issuer app.
ID in Wallet is the biggest new iOS 15 Wallet feature, important enough that Apple announced details and launch states before the September Apple Event, which is unusual for a feature due late 2021 March 2022. The press release clearly explains (but does not show) the exact process for adding and using an ID, and the some security details behind it. Carefully crafted screen images clearly illustrate that ID in Wallet does not show detailed personal information, not even a full name, only the ID elements that will be transmitted by NFC to the TSA reader. Like Apple Pay, users do not need to unlock, show, or hand over their device to present their ID, they simply authorize and hold to the reader.
ID Security and Privacy It looks slick but there are lots of interesting things Apple has not shown yet, like the actual adding process, that will certainly be highlighted at the September Event. Apple is advertising high level security and privacy for ID in Wallet but there are device distinctions security concerned users will want to know about, specifically Secure Intent.
Secure intent, in a very loose sense, is the user action of confirming ‘yes I want this transaction to proceed’ by double pressing a button (Face ID and Apple Watch) or a long press (Touch ID). But there are important differences: by Apple’s official definition, Face ID iPhone and Apple Watch are secure intent devices, Touch ID iPhone is not.
Secure intent provides a way to confirm a user’s intent without any interaction with the operating system or Application Processor. The connection is a physical link—from a physical button to the Secure Enclave…With this link, users can confirm their intent to complete an operation in a way designed such that even software running with root privileges or in the kernel can’t spoof…A double-press on the appropriate button when prompted by the user interface signals confirmation of user intent.
The most secure ID in Wallet secure intent transaction is a double press button authorization action that tells the secure enclave, where your biometrics are stored, to release authentication to the secure element, where your ID credentials are stored, for the transaction magic take place. Apple: “Only after authorizing with Face ID or Touch ID is the requested identity information released from their device, which ensures that just the required information is shared and only the person who added the driver’s license or state ID to the device can present it.” There is no Express Mode for ID card nor would you want there to be.
There is another aspect to consider, one that Apple certainly won’t divulge: who manages and runs the backend centralized mobile ID issue service that plugs into Apple Pay servers. The direct in Wallet ID card add process demonstrates a high level of integration: “Similar to how customers add new credit cards and transit passes to Wallet today, they can simply tap the + button at the top of the screen in Wallet on their iPhone to begin adding their license or ID.”
We can get an idea of what’s involved on the ID backend from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) English PDF document: First SummaryToward the Realization of Electronic Certificates for Smartphones with a diagram of the digital ID system architecture for the Individual Number Card (My Number). MIC are in discussions with Apple to bring the digital My Number ID to Wallet. The Android version is set to launch in 2022.
There has to be a partner service company that sub-contracts mobile ID issue services to participating state governments…somebody that does the heavy lifting of linking various state database servers to provide a centralized card issuing service so that Apple can provide a seamless ID add card experience. But it must be an independent entity that can provide the same set of backend ID issue services to other digital wallet platforms (Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.) at some point. Because if it is not an independent entity providing those services, Apple is inviting more claims that Apple Pay is a monopoly. It’s a mystery worth digging into. Nevertheless, Apple is paving the way by integrating ID issue directly in Wallet that eliminates crappy 3rd party apps. It’s a huge effort that hopefully makes digital ID easy, practical and widely used.
Digital Keys and Power Reserve Express Mode Home, office and hotel keys are the first new iOS 15 Wallet feature on launch day. Where is the Add to Wallet Key Card category? There isn’t one. Keys are slightly different and cannot be added (issued for the first time) to Wallet directly because the mobile key issuing company has to confirm user identity before giving the key. The most common way to add keys for the first time is with an app. From the Apple car key support page:
Open the car manufacturer’s app and follow the instructions to set up a key…Depending on your vehicle, you might be able to add car keys from a link that your car maker sends to you in an email or text message, or by following steps on your car’s information display.
Keys removed from Wallet can be re-added quickly via Previous Cards. According to the iOS 15 and watchOS preview page, keys appear to come in 2 basic varieties, sharable and un-sharable, device specs are different depending on the type of key.
Car keys with Ultra Wideband
iPhones and Apple Watches equipped with U1 chip(iPhone 11 • Apple Watch 6 and later)
Car keys (NFC)
iPhone XS • Apple Watch 5 and later
Device requirements may vary by hotel and workplace
All keys work in Express Mode as keys, unlike ID, require Express Mode to be useful. iPhone XS with A12 Bionic powered NFC supports Express Mode Power Reserve, a huge performance difference from previous Apple Silicon. The extra 5 hours of power reserve key access with a drained iPhone battery are crucial and it’s understandable why Apple set iPhone XS as the base iPhone for using car and home keys.
There might be conditions for office and hotel keys depending on the key issuer. In Japan for example iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE (1st generation) cannot be used for FeliCa based key access, hence the ‘device requirements may vary’ tag.
One more issue here is that mobile key issue is a complex process for hotels, and one assumes offices as well, one that usually requires an app with an account to securely issue a mobile key with set limitations (time, area, etc.).
It’s important to note that issuing digital keys is only one step of the complex process that allows guests to bypass the front desk. Apple’s announcement certainly does not spell the end of the hotel app as we know it…
It’s a big step toward streamlining a process that has, until this point, prevented many guests from using their phone as a digital room key. But, Wallet only solves one segment of the end-to-end operation required to get a guest checked in and room access issued. The bigger issue is connecting identity with access, which requires many more steps beyond issuing a key.
Hyatt Hotel launched Room Keys in Apple Walletin limited locations on December 8 (video). There are a few interesting requirements and other bits. (1) Bingo…reservations must be made in World of Hyatt app and can only be shared with one more device with the same Hyatt account, (2) Room key activated in Apple Wallet after checkin and room assignment, (3) hotel updates or deactivates room key in Wallet remotely, (4) Room key in Apple Wallet is never shared with Apple or stored on Apple servers, (5) The World of Hyatt app is run by ASSA ABLOY Vostio Access Management cloud-based solution. The word ‘sharing’ is never mentioned in the Hyatt announcement or ASSA ABLOY Vostio Access literature. No word what protocol is used but you might remember that ASSA ABLOY and Blackboard use MIFARE for Student ID.
Pairing an identity with access is the core difficulty dealing with digital key issue, sharing keys on different devices is a particularly thorny problem. If I had a crystal ball to read, I might see a future where your ID in Wallet is the only confirmation necessary to add a key directly in Wallet with an email link, no apps. It would be nice if things evolved that way over time. Perhaps that is one of Apple’s long term goals for releasing home-hotel-office keys and ID in the same iOS 15 product cycle.
Wallet expansion and housekeeping The last improvement is that iOS 15 Wallet now holds up to 16 cards. The previous official limit was 12 cards (8 cards for pre-A11 iPhone), though Apple hasn’t mentioned the new limit in any support pages. If you have trouble adding more than 12, remove one taking the total down to 11 cards, then add more cards up to the new limit. The limit is defined as cards that use the secure element for transactions: payment cards, transit cards, keys, and ID. Passes don’t count and used passes are automatically cleared and stored in the new archived passes category. One hopes Wallet will do similar housekeeping for expired hotel keys in a later iOS 15 update.
The expansion seems trivial but 4 more parking spaces in Wallet garage is a godsend not only for card otaku but also for regular users who already have lots of payment and transit cards, it’s easy to hit the limit. The housekeeping changes are appropriate and timely, going forward we’ll all be adding car, home, office, and hotel keys along with our driver’s license to an ever growing Wallet.
UPDATE An earlier edit of this post incorrectly stated that watchOS 8 Wallet did not support hotel and office keys (they were not listed on Apple’s watchOS 8 preview page but mentioned on a separate PR release). Apple PR reached out regarding the error and has been corrected.
Last updated 2021-12-09 (added Hyatt Hotel Wallet key beta test announcement)
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