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iOS 6 Passbook: Door To The Next Level Of Digital Payment

During the June 2012 keynote presentation, Scott Forstall introduced a key feature of iOS 6, Passbook, which at first glance looks like a coupon app. But it doesn't stop there: Passbook is a framework that bypasses NFC and creates a platform for retailers and enables smart apps for transaction.

Passbook
A couple months ago, the new Apple&Forstall surprised developers by presenting a new app, Passbook, which is able to manage boarding passes, store cards, tickets and coupons, and notifies the user using its geolocation feature about a coupon available for use. A month later, Tim Cook described the app as a key feature of iOS 6, without specifying anything.

Considering Passbook's basic function—to store all coupons, tickets and boarding passes in one place—we can say it’s nothing to be too happy about, as it isn't anything special: you can save all your barcodes by taking photos and saving them in the Photo Library and you're done. In addition, the geolocation and push notification features sound better, but there are already tools available for reminding you of a coupon you can redeem in a specific location.

So, why is Passbook is so special? Why is it a “key feature” of iOS 6?

To understand what Passbook does, we need to understand how NFC works. It all starts with the Google Wallet, which came after Google presented some basic NFC features with Android 2.3 in 2010. This put some pressure on Apple and some voices started whispering about the Cupertino company's plans to launch an NFC-capable iPhone. But while that plan got delayed, Apple was granted several patents mentioning NFC, which works by transmitting weak radio signals between a chip implemented in the mobile handset and the chip reader part of the retailer's Point-of-Presence payment system. Basically, the radio NFC chip replaces the optical barcode readers or magnetic card swipe readers with a radio link, which in theory adds another layer of security, but in reality doesn't. Or at least not the way Google implemented it.

Hackers have discovered many flaws in the Google Wallet payment system, and despite Google’s claims that it has patched them, about 80% of the Android installed base is stuck with an earlier version of Android, as the update that fixed those flaws is delayed for some reason—mostly because of their carriers.

Now, this is where Passbook comes into the picture. While some of us are hoping that the iPhone 5 will feature an NFC chip—and there was a rumor a few days ago that it will—Apple has put its team to work and come up with an alternative solution. As it provides time and location based features—coupon expiration alert, proximity alert when a digital ticket can be used, etc.—it doesn't require NFC radio or any other hardware to function, which means all iPhones—back to iPhone 3GS—will be upgraded to iOS 6 this fall, representing a critical mass ready to use the app.

To put it into perspective: Passbook will be the ticket/coupon center iPhone users will access it with. From the retailer's side, Passbook is the framework of an easy-to-use system, where any retailer can create tickets, sign them and distribute them in a way that iOS 6 can integrate into Passbook. A possible scenario: while you are walking through a certain zone, it will notify you about the available promotions nearby, leaving you to decide whether you enter that place or not. This is exactly the same way your boarding pass will pop up at the location you'll need it. So, do you need that NFC payment system? [Via AppleInsider]>em>

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    bertrand petit4 years ago

    great battle ahead with not only Goolge Wallet but MCX and ISIS. All players are align for the big figth