Apple's Passbook a 'mobile wallet lite'

June 11, 2012 | by James Wester

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference 2012 kicked off this morning in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. WWDC is the company's annual conference to show off its latest products and software to the technology community. It runs today through Friday, June 15.

There was some hope (ok, a lot of hope) that Apple might announce its entrance into the mobile payment market. And while Apple didn't provide any real satisfaction, it did announce a small consolation prize: Passbook. It's a new app demoed during today's WWDC keynote address by Scott Forstall, Apple's chief of iOS software development. It's basically a mobile wallet-type app (sans payment capabilities) that will be a part of iOS 6, the newest version of Apple's mobile operating system, when it's released this fall.

Passbook lets users store everything from tickets to boarding passes to loyalty cards all in one place. Anything that uses a barcode (for now at least) can be saved in the Passbook app. This makes it a convenient place to hold all the accounts that currently reside in their own mobile apps (or, heaven forbid, on a keychain or in a wallet for anyone still using those holdovers from the 20th century). That's pretty helpful for iPhone users who may have dozens of apps on their phones.

Additionally, each account held in the Passbook app is live, meaning they're updated in real time just like they are in their native app form. Using a mobile boarding pass to board a plane? Information about changes to flights and gates are updated to the account in the Passbook app. Making a purchase using the Starbucks mobile payment app? The account balance and rewards program reflect the purchase immediately.

What's more, the app can use geofencing and time of day to alert users when they're near the location where a ticket or account is to be used. In addition to sending the alert, Passbook moves that account to the top of the app. In other words, not only does it hold an account and save a user from having to search for an app (or — shudder — pull a card out of a wallet), it also automatically brings the most relevant account to the top so it's easy to find.

The demo at WWDC used the Starbucks mobile payment card as an example, and other loyalty cards from Target, United Airlines and Fandango were visible on screen, but at this point it's unknown just how many partners will make their accounts available for the Passbook app. (The picture below is from Apple's press release on the new features in iOS 6.)

Apple Passbook

For more stories like this, visit the virtual/mobile wallet research center.

Topics: Handsets / Devices , Loyalty Programs , Mobile Apps , Mobile/Digital Wallet , Mobile Marketing

James Wester / James Wester is a technology writer and blogger with over 15 years of experience in marketing and communications in the technology and payments sectors. Prior to joining as editor he worked as Director of Corporate Communications for Chase Paymentech and ran payment operations for AOL. James has a BA in English from Drury University in Springfield, MO and an MS in IT Management from the University of Virginia.
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