When it comes to utilizing smartphones for more than just apps and banking, it looks like Germany is the next country in line to streamline how its citizens use their devices on a daily basis. Thanks to expanded support for near-field communication (NFC) in Apple's iOS 13 update, Germany will soon be using Apple-approved NFC ID documents and letting German citizens use their phones as their ID cards. And the update could allow other countries to make the same moves soon.
This is a big change for Apple, as originally the iPhone's NFC reader was locked to only support Apple Pay. Though the phones could have used any NFC application, Apple saw to it that this didn't happen. With the advent of iOS 13, those restrictions will be lifted, and any iPhone with the NFC chip (iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone X or later) will be able to read any NFC chip in its vicinity — which is what Germany is taking advantage of.
The new practice won't be implemented until iOS 13 debuts later this September or when the German government finishes refining its AusweisApp2 for iOS. It allows users to use smartphones as card readers, and is still very much in beta. According to the official app 's site, you can try out a rudimentary version for free right now.
For other apps in the future outside of Germany, Apple will have to manually approve each new one. For instance, Germany is using its AusweisApp2 title, but other countries will have to build something new and get Apple's approval to use it. But as long as Germany's implementation goes smoothly, this new application could open up avenues for any country that wants to follow their lead in the future.
It's likely, however, that this practice won't take off immediately around the world. Germany may be forward-thinking with its smartphone ID support, but given that many individuals aren't all about storing their bank cards or personal information on their phones, it's possible it might not catch on. Still, it's a lot harder to get into a locked smartphone (especially an iPhone) than to use someone's personal information, ID, or debit card if its been stolen.
Germany isn't the first country with this type of NFC support, though. Both Japan and the U.K. have similar systems with NFC-enabled cards for various purposes. Japanese citizens can utilize a similar setup in the future with Japanese NFC ID cards, though they haven't made the move to smartphones just yet. Japan has been forward-thinking when it comes to NFC-equipped cards in the past though, such as with its Pasmo train cards and other IDs that citizens carry around regularly. Meanwhile, those who live in the U.K. and are citizens of the EU will be able to use NFC-equipped passports to conduct any sort of travel business.
The fact that Germany is allowing those who live in the country to use their phones as an option is a huge step forward, however, for those who prefer to use their smartphones for more than just gaming, texting, or shopping while in the security line at the airport. It remains to be seen which other countries will adopt similar technology, but if all goes well, it's likely others may very well follow suit.
What will the user base look like? It's hard to say from here, but this is absolutely the start of something very cool for both German citizens and the rest of the world.