Passbook was announced as a sort of digital folder for electronic tickets, such as boarding passes, movie tickets and even Starbucks cards. Using location technology, the app will know where you are, pulling up your movie ticket when you arrive at the theater. The app makes for a very slick demo, to be sure.
But such an announcement stumbles upon Apple’s insane levels of secrecy and can be seen more of a nod to the future rather than a complete, finished product.
Apple intentionally made no mention of the next iPhone, focusing mostly on software and one new piece of hardware. The closest they got to acknowledging the new iPhone was announcing an iOS 6 release date.
Each of these new apps—Maps, Passbook, even Siri can be seen as new at this point—will be available in iOS 6 and built to take full advantage of the next iPhone. As such, what does Passbook say about the next smartphone?
Some analysts and Apple observers are suggesting Passbook will also work with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, something found in nearly every smartphone rumor for the past 3 years.
Google has been making a push towards an eWallet which will allow users to do away with cash and cards and simply rely on their devices as form of payment: A convenient notion, but also more than a little unsettling.
Android’s latest flagship phone, the new Samsung Galaxy S III, features NFC and works with Google’s Wallet functionality. Google has yet to gain much traction in the eWallet field, however. As such, only Sprint’s version of the Galaxy S III has the NFC feature built in.
In fact, the Google Wallet feature works in a similar way as Passbook, collecting digital tickets and stubs in one location to be easily called up in a moment. When paired with NFC, Google Wallet can be used to make a payment by simply tapping the device on a “PayPass” enabled device.
As they often do, Apple took a few minutes to brag on themselves, boasting their astronomical app downloads and subsequent payouts to developers. Tim Cook also made a point to mention Apple has 400 million accounts, each with a registered credit card. These Apple ID accounts are the only way to register new devices and make purchases through either store, allowing every user the ability to give Apple their money by simply tapping a button and typing in a password.
This kind of sheer brute strength could send Google packing if and when Apple gives the nod to Passbook, allowing it to not only display your tickets, but also purchase them as well.
In fact, Apple has already been using similar technology in their stores, which have become extremely beautiful and profitable test labs for features such as these. With the new Apple Store App, a customer can walk into any Apple store, find the iPhone case, headphones or MagSage charger they require, scan the barcode with their phone, input their password and walk out of the store unmolested. Your iPhone is associated with your Apple ID, which is associated with your credit card. When your phone connects to the Apple Store Wi-Fi network, it turns this feature on and brings everything together to allow for beautifully simple payments.
Until this point, the big news in iPhone rumors was the adoption of a 4-inch screen and a retooled design. Now, it appears as if the real big news about the next iPhone will be the ability to (finally) make payments with your iPhone. If this comes to pass, Apple could have one very large leg up on Google and Android. Now, we have only to wait until “this fall” to see how things play out.