Passbook – The new wallet for iPhones

5th July 2012

Apple have recently announced ‘Passbook’ in its next operating system (iOS6).

Passbook is like an address book for storing tokens and tickets, with associated machine-readable barcodes and geographic hotspots. The tickets are presented to the user with a consistent interface, and integrated into the lock screen for automatic display when within the vacinity of the store.

To some, Passbook represents a potential shift in the way we pay for goods. It’s easy to imagine Apple allowing users to store payment-card information inside Passbook, marking the company’s entry into a market that has grown crowded even as it has yet to crack the mainstream.

If the voice-powered assistant Siri was the star of last year’s Apple releases, Passbook could be the app that steals the show this year. Much of the online commentary surrounding the company’s WWDC announcements has focused on Apple’s long-term plans for Passbook.

The big reason: Apple already has 400 million active credit cards on file in its iTunes store. At the moment, those cards are used primarily to buy digital music, movies and books. But one day those same accounts could let consumers buy physical goods.

“Clearly, this is the first step in Apple providing a digital wallet,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research.

The idea of a digital wallet has been more popular in theory than in practice. Like Internet-connected televisions and Android-powered tablets, the devices have been hyped by manufacturers but ignored by most consumers.

The same could once have been said about digital music, or tablet-style computers – other markets where early entrants gained little traction, only to see Apple find success by making simple what had once been complicated.

Demonstrating Passbook on stage, Apple executive Scott Forstall showed tickets, passes and coupons stacked neatly in a single app. Passbook is aware of the phone’s location, he said, so when a user who buys a ticket online approaches a movie theater, a notification pops up with a link to the ticket ready to be scanned by an attendant.

Similarly, users who frequent a particular Starbucks could see their loyalty cards pop up on screen as soon as they approach the coffee shop.

If you’re looking to take advantage of the new Passbook functionality, 3Squared can help. Call 0333 121 3333 to discuss your passbook development project.