On first glance, Apple’s brand new Passbook app is a great place to store loyalty cards and tickets. Scratch a little deeper, however, and you might find that it signals Apple’s first major step into mobile wallet space.
For now, Apple is touting the app as a universal place for loyalty cards, tickets, boarding passes and store cards.
“The new Passbook app is the simplest way to get all your passes in one place, such as boarding passes and baseball tickets,” said Apple. “Passbook lets you scan your iPhone or iPod touch to use a coupon, get into a concert or check into your hotel.”
It features scannable QR codes, location-enabled alerts, and real-time updates -- which are available even when your phone is locked.
“Passbook automatically displays your passes on your Lock Screen based on a specific time or location, so when you walk into your favorite coffee shop your loyalty card appears and you can scan it to buy a coffee or check your balance. Passbook can even alert you to last-minute gate changes or flight delays at the airport,” said Apple.
All Apple needs to do to turn the app into a fully blown mobile payment service -- akin to Google Wallet -- is to link Passbook with customers’ credit cards and/or iTunes accounts.
The shift will be easier for Apple than rivals like Google; Apple already has 400 million active user accounts on iTunes, each one of which is linked to a credit card and one-click purchasing.
“This is the store with the largest number of accounts with credit cards anywhere on the internet that we're aware of," announced Apple CEO Tim Cook during the opening keynote at this year’s WWDC on June 11.
Apple has applied for and been granted a number patents related to mobile payments, some of which date back to 2010.
Passbook will launch along with iOS 6 in the fall and initially includes partners such as Target, Fandango, Starbucks, Amtrak, United, and of course the Apple Store.