Perfect Timing For Passbook

8/16/2012 3:35:29 PM

Apple playing it safe and smart

It's impossible to slow technology down. With every incarnation of Apple's mobile iOS software, more solutions are offered. One much talked about technology is known as NFC, and whether Apple will be inserting it into their software the way Google has, and if they were going to come out with their own version of a digital wallet.

NFC technology, or Near Field Communication, allows two devices to communicate by touching each other. In this case we're talking about how it allows for digital payment. Information can be stored on your iPhone so that you can swipe it over a reader at a store to pay for your items.

iOS 6 will indeed have a digital wallet, called Passbook, and the version that is currently in developers' hands doesn't include any NFC technology, leaving others to prognosticate whether it will be added when the final version of the software comes out or whether Apple is wisely deciding to lay low and let others find their way so that they can avoid mistakes.

Description: Apple Patents NFC Tech for iOS Game Controller Use

Apple Patents NFC Tech for iOS Game Controller Use

Mobile phones are just another thing we need to carry around in our pockets or purses. Wouldn't it be great to get rid of some of that pocket and purse clutter by adding it into our mobile phones so that we don't have to carry as much? While having many credit cards is not a great practice for obvious reasons, many people do, and there never seems to be enough slots in a purse or wallet to hold them all. Additionally, there are also store loyalty cards, movie tickets, and boarding passes that get jammed into purses and wallets. NFC technology and digital wallets exist to hopefully get rid of some of that clutter.

Digital wallets are a way of recording all the information from the multiple cards in your wallet, from your card to gift cards and loyalty cards, as well as tickets, passes, and coupons. If it's all in one place on your iPhone, you're less likely to lose them. And let's get real I'd leave my wallet someplace accidentally sooner than I would leave my iPhone.

While Apple is often the first one on the market to debut new technology, they yet to make inroads with NFC or a digital wallet. One of the first to utilize this technology is Google Wallet It operates using NFC technology and allows you to pay in-store with your Android phone and make online payments as well. The main problem with it is that in order for you to be able to use it at a shop, the store has to have the proper setup for it. Currently, there are only a limited number of retailers prepared for users. In the time since it's become available, I have never seen anyone using it.

Description: Passbook

 What's new in iOS 6? Wallet scans everything in your wallet, including cards and receipts. It does not work with any NFC technology, mainly because it isn't available on the iPhone yet, and is therefore not available in third-party apps.

I actually tried this app the other night and found it handy, but the NFC technology would definitely make it better. I scanned in my credit cards, driver's license, ¡Tunes gift card, and insurance cards. What it wasn't good for were the small loyalty cards that fit on keychains. They wouldn't fit correctly within the borders of the scanning area. Normally those are usually given out alongside full- size cards, but I had alerady discarded them in preference for those smaller ones.

Not only did it keep digitized versions of all my credit cards and IDs, it also keeps receipts. It allows you to scan them in or put them in manually. Next, it takes all that data and analyzes your spending habits as well. That might not be a good thing, depending on your spending habits. Additionally, provides you with an email address to give to merchants when you purchase something online.

Now, not only do your receipts all arrive in one handy spot, but all that spam that arrives from having your email shared arrives in this mailbox as well. Lemon is also promising a technology that will allow the app to notify you when you are near a store that will accept a coupon or offer that you have scanned into the app.

Even PayPal wasn't left out of the loop in this new digital payment technology. They have created their own app, Paypal In-Store, to allow PayPal users to buy things with their account in stores. However, like Google Wallet, it requires connectivity with stores that have a special reader to allow for its use. Unlike Google Wallet, it doesn't use NFC.

Description: Description: Paypal In-Store

Paypal In-Store Wallet and the Paypal In- Store apps are great, but it does seem strange that Apple hasn't dipped their toe into the market until now. They will be releasing the new Passbook app along with their iOS 6 revision. From what they showed at the WWDC and from what developers have seen, there is no NFC technology included in this app and it is mostly a digitized wallet... with a few included extras.

Unlike, Passbook doesn't allow you to scan everything that's in your wallet. It will be more like the native iOS app, Newsstand. Instead of holding magazines, it instead houses apps produced by the companies offering the magazines, like Tech Life News. Likewise, Passbook doesn't store your cards, but apps by the companies that issued your cards. iPhone users won't know all the stores and organizations whose apps have been included in Passbook until it's released. The only known participants are those shown in the demo or in pictures - Target, Fandango, Amtrak, Starbucks,, W Hotel, United, and of course, the Apple Store.

Because it's on the iPhone, Passbook is full of interconnectivity. It doesn't just give you the ticket info, it scans it in via QR code.

But it does even more than that. The United Airlines app tells you if your gate changes and gives you other necessary info. The Baseball ticket app will show you where your seats are located.

Description: Description: Passbook Demo on iOS 6 Beta 2

Passbook Demo on iOS 6 Beta 2

Passbook will also, like Wallet, let you know when you pass a store or organization that can use a coupon or card that you have stored. And because it's Apple, it has great graphics. When you decide you no longer want a coupon, pass, or card in your wallet, or when it has been used or has expired, you delete it in the app, with a little shredding animation of that card.

But what I like the most about the app is that it will also allow you to use the cards or tickets you have as your lock screen. You no longer have to unlock your phone and fumble through your apps to get to the right card to present at the counter. You just have to turn it on. That’s it.

And while you can use the boarding pass and redeem the coupons and tickets, you cannot "buy" things, per se, with Passbook at least not to anyone outside of Apple's knowledge. Two of the iPhone 5 prototype models, referred to as iPhone 5.1 and iPhone 5.2, have NFC controllers built in. They might not have it included in what will ultimately be the iPhone 5, but they were at least considering it as an option.

Description: Description: iPhone 5 with iOS6-Passbook

iPhone 5 with iOS6-Passbook

As much as the iPhone has become a necessity in our lives, imagine how much more of one it could be with bulit-in capacity of the ability to purchase items in-store. Not that I necessarily need to spend more money, but it would just be easier. As it is, I keep my shopping lists in a variety of different note-taking apps, whichever one suits my fancy on that given day. Bar code readers can scan products and tell you what stores the product is available in. Now you might be able to buy these things with that very same app as well.

But if the NFC technology hasn't been added just yet to the iPhone 5, that's okay, as you'll be able to buy a coffee on the way to the store and buy tickets on the way to the movie theater. And when you're on the way to the airport, it will remind you that you're passing a Starbucks, and you'll be able to use your loyalty card to get a latte to drink before your flight.

It's still not clear why Apple is behind the others with this technology, but what does seem clear is that Apple is proceeding carefully with this release, just as they have with all their other product releases. No other pass using the wallet and NFC technology have been immediately successful, so Apple seems to be playing it smart by taking their time to be sure they hit the market with a successful product at just the right time.

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