Introducing Apple Pay Vault: storage for cryptocurrencies on iOS devices

Apple enables iOS users to store and transfer cryptocurrencies and digital assets through Apple Pay Vault.

*This is a fictitious announcement to stimulate conversation about one of the most necessary improvements in cryptocurrencies: secure storage.

Apple releases iOS 13.0 with major updates including the Apple Pay Vault: Apple’s first product enabling the storage and transactions of digital assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum & Monero. Through the Vault app pre-installed on iOS devices, 1.2 billion customers now have access to a secure way to store cryptocurrency private keys. Users can transfer funds to friends via iMessage or deposit/withdraw from their wallets in Coinbase (acquired by Apple in May 2019).

Apple Pay Vault offers on-device storage for cryptocurrencies

Built for everyday transactions

While most people carry cash, only a finite amount of their net worth is in their pocket at any given time. A wallet only contains money that you would spend in a day. On average, Americans have under $20 cash in their wallets, while those with savings have on average $60,000 in a bank or investment account.

“The Apple Pay Vault is modeled after a traditional wallet used to pay for smaller, everyday transactions. Users will keep a small amount of cryptocurrency on their device stored in the Secure Enclave, which sits near the A11 chip. While secure and convenient, if a customer loses their phone, there is no way to recover the private keys.” — Bill O’Reilly, Head of Apple Pay Partner Marketing

Secured in the case of theft

Unlike cash in a wallet, there is less of an incentive to steal an iPhone with cryptocurrency stored on it. A thief would have no value in the encrypted data as it is rendered useless without the Face ID or Touch ID authentication.

Local (instead of cloud) storage

Today, your fingerprint or facial scan is not uploaded to the cloud, but is instead stored locally on your device within the Secure Enclave. The biometric data is stored in an encrypted form which — according to Apple — can only be decrypted by a key available by the Secure Enclave thus making fingerprint data walled off from the A11 Chip and the rest of iOS. How accurate is the biometric scanner? Apple says Touch ID has less than a 1 in 50,000 of detecting the same fingerprint among two people.

(Author’s note: It is probably a good idea that Apple doesn’t manage a database of the world’s fingerprints and/or faces.)

Craig Federighi, SVP of Software Engineering showing how the iPhone can detect the facial structure of a user and store that encrypted information on the Secure Enclave proprietary chip.

“With this update, Apple enables secure digital asset storage for to 1.2 billion customers worldwide. We are excited to offer this software update that continues to add value for our users.” — February 1, 2019 by Josh Robbins, Apple Pay Global Business Development

Conclusion

Apple has tapped into the cryptocurrency market by enabling storage for small amounts of digital assets. The next move will be to add more value to customers through providing secure storage in the cloud. “Using iCloud and multi-signature technology, Apple can ensure that cryptocurrency private keys are only transferred if approved by the owner. Through our partnership with Coinbase, we can continue to innovate on behalf of our customers,” said Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase. Stay tuned for Apple’s Pay Vault’s partnership with Starbucks mobile ordering coming in November 2019!

Inspired by Hemant Taneja & Elad Gil at Blockchain Connect 2018 in San Francisco during their fireside chat “Crypto Needs Banks”.