The card missing from our digital wallets

If you’re lucky enough to own a smartphone these days, as most people do, then you can most likely use it to replace your wallet. With Apple Pay and Google Pay, you can spend money without the need for cash for bank cards. Store Cards such as Tesco Clubcard can also be placed in your digital wallet. I even store my library card on my phone thanks to this app which lets you digitise any barcode based pass and place it in your Apple Wallet.  I’m so used to this situation now, that I rarely go out with a wallet on my person. Once train ticket machines started taking contactless there really was no need.  One less thing to lose, one less thing to remember.

However I ran into a slight hitch the other day when I ordered something online from for pickup in an Apple Store. I placed the order while walking through the shopping centre, knowing the item was in stock and would be ready for me to pick up within 30 minutes.  I paid using Apple Pay on my phone, and an order ticket was placed into my digital wallet. About 10 minutes later a notification appeared on my phone saying it was ready for pickup. Excited, I took the escalator to the upper floor of the shopping mall and walked into the Apple Store, phone in hand, QR code ready on the screen.  All went well until the Apple Store employee asked to see some identification. I had none. Why Would I? I use a digital wallet. In many respects, I am the prototypical Apple Customer, using minimal time from staff and making my purchase online using Apple Pay, from an iPhone. Yet they wouldn’t give me my new AirPods without seeing some form of identification.

While I understand that you can’t just handover expensive items without some kind of validation in place, I was surprised that Apple, of all companies, did not have a digital alternative in place. You could argue it’s not the role of Big Tech to be creating digital ID cards, and perhaps there are benefits to plastic-based identification. In the UK, thankfully there are no laws requiring citizens to carry identification (even when driving). That said, I’d love to see a solution that works in tandem with our existing systems and doesn’t exclude anyone who doesn’t own a smartphone, or wants to keep using plastic ID.

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