For my part, tapping my Passbook app has become a reflex whenever I am at Walgreen’s checkout these days. Whenever the clerk asks if I have the drug chain’s rewards card, I no longer have to search my memory or my wallet for the answer. It is bolted into my iPhone, and the upgraded scanners at Walgreen’s work every time. Whenever credit is loaded into my Starbucks card, it surfaces into this app, which is much easier than doing an app search for the vendor-specific program at checkout.
And I am not alone. According to a Wired.com story following up on developer use of the m-wallet Apple introduced with iOS 6, many developers are seeing increased downloads and use of their apps because of presence in Passbook.
Here are just a few of the stats. Sephora says 375,000 of its rewards cards have been added to the Passbook since launch. The company is especially fond of the gift card function, which allows a user to send a gift to a friend’s Passbook for immediate use.
American Airlines says 20,000 boarding passes a day are now processed through Passbook, and that is coming from 1.5 million of the airline’s users who are moving passes into the app.
As Wired notes, the choke points to Passbook are kludgy implementation of the integration from vendor-specific apps into Passbook. In a few cases, I thought a Passbook connection had been initiated when it wasn’t. Every app is communicating the feature differently with consumers. In addition, there is now some confusion in the mind of the user over which apps do and don’t support the feature and where your coupons/reward cards reside.
The convenience factor has been demonstrated, however, at least in my mind. Whatever else, the mobile wallet battles the clutter of the modern smartphone deck. And it points the way toward what upcoming iterations of Android and iOS must do -- solve some of the very problems they created. In the first years of their lives, these operating systems were making life easier mainly for developers by providing richer platforms for software creation. It is interesting that in the past six months or so we are talking less about app catalogs and more about core functionality like search interfaces, mapping, geo-fencing, and app messaging.
The app model has always had one glaring weakness: the data and functionality of all these independently developed apps is siloed from one another. You can’t search across them or even into them. On iOS there isn’t even basic form-filling help baked into the OS. The cross-linking that drove the Web is absent here. And as user adoption grows, the sheer clutter of these things becomes an issue. As much as we love the little icons and their funky, often creative functionality, let’s face it -- they are unwieldy in everyday use. Apart from its m-wallet functions, Passbook does one thing well that we need to see more of in the app ecosystem -- gathering into one place a function shared across many apps.
Just as the introduction of the Apple Newsstand helped accelerate the uptake of digital editions for periodicals, Passbook’s success in popularizing m-wallet functions demonstrates how important the OS is becoming in the next stage of mobile platforms. User-level simplicity, seamlessness, interoperability and accessibility of the app ecosystem should drive the next stage.