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One month in, iOS 6's Passbook barely passes go

Dan Moren | Oct. 23, 2012
In just four short weeks, iOS 6’s Passbook feature has totally revolutionized the life of you, me, and everybody we know.

As with many of the features and services Apple has touted in the past, Passbook sounded great in theory. In practice, though, Apples rollout of Passbook has been the quietest and most low-key since the company announced Pingand we all know what happened to that.

A swing and a miss

Ive tried to give Passbook a fair shake in my own life, but my options are limited: I dont fly United, American, or Lufthansa, and the Red Sox were pretty much out of the baseball season even before iOS 6 launched. I briefly considered booking a flight on Virgin Australia, but figured that might stretch even my bosss considerably forgiving nature.

My options were limited to some stored value cards, coupons, and the occasional movie ticket. (Amusingly enough, my 18-year-old cousin was the first person to show me a Passbook pass in real life; only shortly after the updates release, shed already imported a concert ticket. And, as we all know, as teenagers go, so goes technological trends.)

So I forged ahead and loaded $10 onto a Starbucks card when the company launched its Passbook integration. Ive used it successfully a few times now, though the experience isnt always as smooth as you might think. Usually the cashier has to do something with the scanner (press a button or angle it) to scan my barcode; at least theyre generally accustomed to the idea of scanning a phone, thanks to the fact that the Starbucks app for the iPhone has had a similar feature for some time.

In my experience, however, I did notice that my Starbucks passs balance doesnt auto-update immediately, as Apple claimed it should, even though the Automatic Updates option on the back of the card was set to On. Instead, I found that I had to go into the Starbucks appwhich would update correctlythen open Passbook, flip to the back of the Starbucks card, and pull to refresh. Its...less than smooth. At least I got a push notification that the card had been updated, so thats something.

As far as anecdotal experience goes, the aforementioned cousin told me that the ticket takers at the show she went to didnt really understand that her ticket was on her phone, even after she explained it repeatedly.

More recently, developer Paul Kafasis told me he struggled to figure out if he could get his Delta boarding pass into Passbook. Though Delta is among the partners Apple showcases on its website, the airline isnt yet offering the feature. As a result, Kafasis was unable to take advantage of Passbook, even though the airline does send a digital boarding pass via email. He described the process as more than a bit convoluted.


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