The end of the wallet: how phones replaced cash, credit cards and receipts

Name: The wallet.

Age: So the word has been around since the 14th century, but it used to refer to a small sack for carrying provisions. The introduction of paper money to the west in the 1600s led to the development of wallets for the way we use them today. Wallets that look like wallets really came about in the 1950s.

Appearance: Traditionally leather, bifold, with slots for cards – credit, library, gym membership, loyalty, organ donor etc. Sometimes there’s a little pouch for coins. To fit a back pocket, traditionally for men but let’s not be old-fashioned, wallets are for anyone and everyone. Or they were for anyone and everyone …

Were? Wallets are over? Yup, according to the Wall Street Journal. Time to bin it. Or better repurpose it, as a … I don’t know what, small folder?

Because of the much talked about demise of cash? Yes, that. And the pandemic hasn’t helped, what with no one wanting to touch anything at all.

Well I knew banknotes were out of fashion, but what about all those cards? Seriously? You’re using debit cards and credit cards instead of your phone to pay for stuff? In the US in 2020 mobile payments in shops grew by 29% according to research by eMarketer, which estimated that half of us will be using our phones to pay by 2025.

OK, well what about my driving licence then. You don’t need to carry your driving licence with you in the UK. In some countries you do though – the US for example, where mobile licence programmes have been around for a while. The next iPhone operating system will have a mobile licence feature.

And all the rest? Your work ID – if you ever get round to going back in to the office – might already have gone digital. Loyalty cards? Get the app. The gym? On the mobile. Likewise, train tickets, the key to your hotel room, proof of vaccination … your phone is your life.

So if I lose it I won’t exist? Well, soon you won’t be able to do anything, or buy anything, so essentially, yes. You will be as obsolete as your wallet.

Well I’ve got a long-expired condom in my wallet too. You can’t digitise that, can you? You may have to wait for iOS 16 for that.

Do say: “IPhone therefore I am.”

Don’t say: “Anyone got a charger I can borrow?”