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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.

The Target app, which also now includes Passbook support, isnt a whole lot more elegant. The retail chain lets you load digital coupons into the iOS app, but the process takes several steps. First you have to sign up to receive mobile coupons from within the app, which requires you to enter your name, email, and phone number. Then you get a text message, which contains a link that you have to tap to activate the mobile coupons. Finally, youll have to add the coupons to Passbook. That process should get easier on subsequent coupon-loadings, since you only have to register once, but the first time though, its a little eye-roll-inducing.

Target also, oddly, bundles multiple offers on one pass. Thats convenient in terms of not cluttering up Passbook, but its still somewhat strange compared to the paper analogs that you dispose of after use. You can only take advantage of each offer once, but if you find yourself trying to redeem multiple offers in the same purchase you may end up having to have the pass scanned multiple times.

Perhaps most perplexing is that Forstall demoed a digital version of a gift card for Apples own retail store, and yet a month later, the company has yet to actually roll out this capability. For such a prominent feature, youd think the company would at least be eating its own dog food.

What's the hold up?

As matters currently stand, there seem to be two major sticking points for Passbook. First, third-partyand heck, first-partysupport for the feature is limited. People seem to be generally intrigued by the idea of Passbook, but right now you have to search pretty hard to find a real reason to use itI mean, I had to go to Starbucks.

That situation is likely to improve over time; it can take organizations a while to adopt new technologies, especially when theyre big companies like airlines. Apple should, however, make it even easier to find supporting apps; itd be great if Passbook continued to sport its own link to Passbook-enabled apps on the App Store, even after you started adding passes.

The second issue, which is more pervasive, is the difficulty of adding passes. Passbook would seem like the natural place to go when youre looking to add a pass. But in most cases you actually have to do so from within the companys own app or, in some cases, from its website. Its simple enough to use when you actually have your passes in Passbook, but the soup-to-nuts process could be smoother.

As with so many other technologies that Apple has tried to reinvent and revolutionize, the biggest challenge for Passbook has been connecting it to other companies. Apple has to put some time in convincing its partners that Passbooks features are worth adopting, or else it risks becoming just another extra app that people cant remove from their home screens. Newsstand, anyone?

 

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