When Apple launched the iPhone® 5 in mid-2012, media and consumer anticipation was centered on near field communication (NFC). And, while the NFC announcement never came, Apple did announce Passbook as a key new feature available in iOS 6. Questions immediately arose. Is Passbook a digital wallet? Is it Apple’s first step, alongside it’s 435 million plus iTunes® users, into mobile payments?
Apple positions Passbook as a single place to keep boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons, loyalty cards, and even other mobile payment applications. Aside from having everything in one ‘wallet’, Passbook leverages geo-location technology to organize these passes according to where you are, or even notify you as to an expiring coupon or gate change for a forthcoming flight. Passbook still requires that you download the native app, whether from a retailer, issuer, aggregator or other developer. Once the app is installed on the device, you can then select to add passes to your Passbook.
So far, a variety of companies have integrated with Passbook including Target and Gap (coupons and offers), American Express (account information, but not mobile payments), Fandango (movie tickets), American Airlines, Delta and United (boarding passes), Valpak® and Coupons.com (discounts and coupons), Starbucks and DunkinDonuts (payments and loyalty). And Major League Baseball recently announced that 13 major league ballparks would accept Passbook mobile ticketing during the 2013 season.
Passbook definitely affords convenience to those iOS users who enable geo-location and who prefer an aggregated model as opposed to having to sift through a sea of individual apps. But, is this all that Passbook has to offer? For now, yes, Passbook is an aggregator with real-time push notifications and alerts and top of ‘wallet’ services. Over time, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Apple has planned for Passbook.