About three years ago, Rebekah Cox, an early product designer at Facebook and Quora, tweeted: “The first company to fully execute on embedding your identity into your phone (making a truly first class experience) wins the next decade.” The tweet was widely-circulated, and given Cox’s experience, provoked thought. A day later, she expanded on her tweet by writing a longer post on Quora, titled “Mobile Identity.” It’s an excellent post and worth reading, as she explores the intersection of mobile, identity, and permissions to interrupt — it’s deeper than what I’ll write about here today (I’ll focus on iOS), because for now, the building blocks for mobile identity remain to be seen.
It’s cliche yet true, today’s mobile phones are quite personalized to us. We download the apps we want, arrange them according to our tastes, and dispose of them at will — all with the press and quick tap of the fingertip. Yet for those initial years, our ability to obtain these apps and interact with them often required personal account creation — on iOS, we need an iTunes account, which requires a credit card, to download free and paid apps, many of which require us to create usernames and passwords as a proxy for identification.