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Many Android 13 users could miss out on mobile driver's license support

Android 13 Tiramisu
Android 13 Tiramisu (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • New evidence shows that devices launching with Android 13 will require special hardware to support mobile driver's licenses (mDLs) and digital IDs.
  • That hardware must be able to support Identity Credential Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) at feature version 202201 or later.
  • Google cannot mandate this change for older devices supporting Android 13, but it will require it for new devices launching with the latest OS.

Ever since Android 11, Google has been building in the functionality to support digital IDs such as mobile driver's licenses (mDLs) on all of the devices running its latest mobile operating system, from budget handsets up to the best Android phones. However, now that more and more federal, state, and local governments are warming up to the idea of digital IDs — at least 30 states so far — and now that Apple has vowed to support this feature from iOS 15 onwards as well, Google is hoping to finally bring the functionality to fruition in Android 13.

Unfortunately, it appears that not every phone capable of running Android 13 will be able to hold digital I.D.s like mobile driver's licenses (mDLs) according to this blog post by Mishal Rahman, senior technical editor at Esper and former editor-in-chief at XDA Developers.

Rahman's reporting notes that Android phones featuring chipsets shipping with Android 13 must be able to support something called the Identity Credential HAL (HAL stands for Hardware Abstraction Layer). This is a physical device requirement that older phones capable of running Android 13 likely do not feature.

Now technically, Google has extended support for the Identity Credential API back to devices running Android 7.0 (Android N or Nougat) or later through Android Jetpack Library. However, in order to provide even more robust security and privacy, Google has begun to push this HAL requirement to handset and chip manufacturers, though it cannot mandate this change with older devices capable of running Android 13.

Because of the challenges that implementing these parameters presents up and down the supply chain, including digital ID application developers like governments, it may be several more years before we start to see an abundance of Android phones supporting mDLS. Until then, smartphone lovers must be content to carry around their driver's license in a wallet or handbag or slap a great wallet case on their new Android phone.

Jeramy Johnson
Editor-in-chief

Jeramy is proud to help *Keep Austin Weird* and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in each hand. When he's not writing about smart home gadgets and wearables, he's defending his relationship with his smart voice assistants to his family. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw.