While some think of Apple’s upcoming Passbook feature in iOS 6 as just a coupon app, it’s so much more. It’s a framework that allow retailers to develop apps for transactions without relying on Near Field Communications (NFC) hardware.
Scott Forstall, Apple’s head of iOS development, demonstrated Passbook at the company’s June Worldwide Developer Conference, highlighting the new app’s ability to manage boarding passes, tickets, store cards and coupons, with novel push updating and geolocation features.
If that’s all Passbook did, it really wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But that’s not all there is to Passbook. The real power of the new feature is not in the app itself, but in the framework of functionality and infrastructure Apple created in it.
AppleInsider points out that Passbook is similar to “Game Center.” With Game Center, game developers can easily include leader boards, group play and achievement tracking features in their gaming titles “for free,” Passbook is intended to make iOS apps related to shopping and other retail transactions better, smarter and more visible to users.
While NFC requires merchants to invest in NFC technology, Apple’s example tickets and coupons all simply use standard bar codes, which almost any retailer or ticket vendor already uses.
Instead of scrambling to bring a new hardware technology to market, and all the security concerns that come along with it, Apple’s Passbook delivers a package of software features that address existing issues, with concerns given to security.
As none of these features require and NFC radio or other new hardware to operate, Passbook should work on all iOS 6 capable devices, all the way back to the iPhone 3GS. The numbers of devices that can use Passbook should attract developers the same way Game Center did. It’s been noted that over two-thirds of iOS games now include support for Game Center.