Until today, Apple held back one of iOS 12’s lesser-known new features, support for contactless student ID cards. Now Duke University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oklahoma are the first three schools to roll out the feature, which moves iPhones and Apple Watches another step forward as physical wallet replacements.
The new feature enables students to add student ID cards to the iPhone’s Wallet app, which then can be evoked for anything the card would normally be used to do: get access to dorms, gyms, or school libraries, as well as making payments for books, food, and laundry services. Anywhere a card would normally be accepted, the digital version works as well.
Apple says that ID cards can be set on “Express Mode” to provide the “quickest entry possible to buildings around campus.” The company has indicated that Express Mode allows one card to be used without any form of authentication — Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode — by just double-clicking on the device’s Wallet activation button.
Interestingly, the release of the latest iPhone XS models included a small print technical change that might matter to some users of this feature. While the iPhone X features support for “Express Cards,” the iPhone XS and XS Max support “Express Cards with Power Reserve.”
Apple hasn’t particularly emphasized this difference, but it enables the latest devices to hold enough spare power to allow NFC use of one Wallet card even when the phone is otherwise depleted. This could be a real benefit when, say, you’ve been out all night with your phone and need to get back into your dorm.
“When we launched Apple Pay, we embarked on a goal to replace the physical wallet,” said Apple VP Jennifer Bailey. “By adding transit, loyalty cards and contactless ticketing we have expanded the capabilities of Wallet beyond payments, and we’re now thrilled to be working with campuses on adding contactless student ID cards to bring customers even more easy, convenient and secure experiences.”
In addition to the schools launching today, Johns Hopkins University, Santa Clara University, and Temple University are promising to add iOS 12 Wallet support by the end of this school year. The “digital student ID cards” feature was first mentioned at WWDC in June.