Touch ID is Apple Pay's killer feature. With the traditional passive NFC chips that you can find on credit cards and the key fobs that many of use to gain access to our offices, and even the active radios that have been integrated in many Android phones for the last several years, there is no way to truly know when information leaves your device. Touch ID's biometric functionality adds a requirement of physical interaction that makes storing everything from your driver's license to your house key on your handset a no brainer.
The devil and the details
Even with all these great possibilities on the horizon, it may be years before the technology that makes Apple Pay possible gains new and exciting uses.
For one thing, Apple is keeping the NFC chips inside late-model iPhones to itself, without giving third-party developers the ability to access and use them. This probably makes sense from a strategic perspective, but it clearly limits the usefulness of this feature when it comes to other applications. And, as my colleague Glenn Fleishman recently noted in his security column, Touch ID itself is not without its potential problems.
Perhaps more importantly, there is an element of trust required for more mainstream uses of these technologies that I don't think the company has quite earned yet. While I appreciate Tim Cook's commitment to privacy, as I noted in a recent article about HealthKit for Macworld, Apple needs to extend this attitude to third parties as well, and prevent them from trying to get their hands on my data every time they can.
Still, as time goes forward, I have no doubt that the infrastructure that the folks from Cupertino have built to power Apple Pay barely scratches the surface of what will be yet another revolution in our relationship with mobile--and wearable--devices, and I can't see where things take us.
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