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Report: Apple turning on Passbook payments at its stores

Apple's Passbook app, a mobile wallet "lite," is about to become, well, heavier, at least in a payment sense. According to several sources, Apple is looking to turn on some payment functionality in the app, allowing purchases in its retail stores to be made through Passbook.

Passbook is the virtual wallet application Apple released as a part of its new iOS 6 operating system. The app lets users store everything from boarding passes to baseball tickets to giftcards in a digital form all in one place. Users can then access those items quickly on their iPhone, even from the lock screen, so they can be scanned or viewed. Several companies such as Starbucks, Target and American Airlines have already begun supporting Passbook integration.

Now, according to 9to5Mac.com, Apple will be supporting its app as well. Beginning later this month, updgrades to the point-of-sale system in Apple stores will let employees process payments using the EasyPay feature on the Apple store app. That's the self-checkout feature that currently lets shoppers scan and buy accessories and non-Apple items in-store using their iTunes account.

With the upgrades to its POS system, Apple store employees will be able to scan a barcode on Passbook to process a payment from an Apple giftcard stored in the app. For now, it's likely that the POS upgrades and Passbook integration will only support purchases using Apple giftcards. That means there's no support for purchases using iTunes accounts using the millions of credit cards Apple already has on file — at least not yet. 

But even if it's just for supporting giftcards, using Passbook to pay in Apple stores would be both an improvement over carrying a physical giftcard and would be an improvement over the way EasyPay currently works.

Customers who want to use EasyPay now to buy items like iPads and iPhones still require the assistance of a store employee; no self-checkout is available. With the new barcode scanners Passbook supports, a customer will at least be able make a purchase of those items and have their purchase pre-authorized and ready to go. An employee would simply scan the barcode to verify the purchase. 

While that's not necessarily "self-checkout," it will shrink wait times when purchasing popular items that are pre-configured and will be an improvement during this holiday season when many customers will simply want to purchase an iPad or iPod at an Apple store and be on their way.

For more stories on this topic, visit the Retail research center.

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