Developers Say Passbook Is a Surprise Success

Developers Say Passbook Is a Surprise Success

The Passbook feature of iOS 6 has become a surprise hit for developers. Companies have come to love Passbook for the ease of use it provides for both customers and retailers.


The Apple-built app aggregates them from third-party apps like Fandango and Starbucks in one convenient place. Each app gets a pass that then, based upon your GPS location, pops up on the lockscreen to, say, remind you that you’ve got a $50 gift card at Target or nine bucks left on your Starbucks card as you’re walking past the store.

American Airlines, retailers Sephora and Target, and drug store chain Walgreen’s are among the companies that have developed Passbook compatible apps and have seen an eager public download them by the tens of thousands since Passbook was released.

“We were amazed at the high uptake,” Phil Easter, American Airlines’ director of mobile apps said. “Apple has allowed an app developer like us is to put features right in front of the user where before, that space was off limits.”

True, Passbook doesn’t include NFC technology like Google Wallet, but the upside is retailers only need to be able to scan QR or bar codes for the feature to work, they don’t need to invest in NFC technology for their checkout systems. Although you can use Passbook to make payments at some retailers, like Starbucks, it’s main strength is the ease of displaying coupon or ticket codes. And, since it’s location aware, it knows what to display.

Sephora saw a jump of 38,000 more downloads than on average the day Passbook launched, and reports that 10,000 of their “Beauty Insider” reward cards were added to Passbook in that single day. The number has jumped to 375,000 since then. The company also uses Passbook for gift cards.

“From a gift card standpoint it’s very seamless,” Julie Bornstein, senior vice president of Sephora Digital, told Wired. “You can send a gift card to a friend, they accept it, hit a link to add to their Passbook, and then they have their gift card right there.” Customers also can scan a code on their conventional gift cards so they can add them to Passbook.

The American Airlines app saw an additional 1 million downloads in the 10 days following the launch of Passbook. About 20,000 passes are now served each day, and the company reports 1.5 million active users of the service.

There are some snags. Business and app makers need to work to let consumers know their apps are Passbook-enabled. They must also make sure the user can understand how to set up the Passbook feature, and how to use it.

“It was super confusing,” mobile designer Mariya Yao told Wired. “I opened it and it told me to download a bunch of other apps. I’m a mobile designer, so I did that, but if I were a normal person I totally wouldn’t have.”

As consumers understand the feature better, and developers and companies make the feature easier to use, it’s clear that Passbook is helping drag stores into this century. The always connected, location-aware century.