by James A. Martin

How Apple’s Passbook iOS App Went from ‘Yawn’ to ‘Yes!’

Jan 14, 20133 mins

When Apple’s Passbook iOS app was released in September it seemed a bit underwhelming, according to blogger James A. Martin. But Passbook has gradually become one of his most frequently used apps. Here's why.

Apple’s Passbook app, introduced as part of the iOS 6 software early last fall, went from meh to most-often-used status on my iPhone in just four months.

Passbook aggregates retail-loyalty and gift cards, coupons, event tickets, airline boarding passes and more in one place. Using the iPhone’s GPS, the app sends you notifications when you’re near a business that has an app you’ve added to Passbook. When you’re at the business, you can use your loyalty card or ticket simply by scanning the relevant barcodes within your Passbook app at the appropriate retailers.

Apple Passbook app

Initially, Passbook seemed promising, but I was surprised by how few brands had embraced it. As of mid-September 2012, for instance, only 11 companies had joined the Passbook posse, despite the fact that Passbook was announced in June.

Currently, there are 23 brands in the Passbook family, and Delta Airlines is the most recent addition. That’s still less than I’d have expected, given Apple’s clout and the iPhone’s popularity.

However, that number doesn’t tell the full story, as some companies have added Passbook support but aren’t included among the Passbook apps listed in iTunes. One example is Goldstar, which sells discounted tickets to theatrical and other events. Goldstar isn’t among the brands listed as Passbook supporters. You can add tickets purchased through Goldstar to Passbook—though it’s not an intuitive process. (I downloaded the Passbook file attached to my confirmation email onto my Mac, clicked to open the attachment, and then clicked the “Add to Passbook” button.)

All that said, Passbook has become an app I use frequently on my iPhone. As a Starbucks habitué, I’ve been paying for my drinks and food with my prepaid Starbucks card and the Starbucks iPhone payment app for a while. My local Starbucks is one block away from a Walgreens where I often go for toiletries, prescriptions and other stuff. Until a few months ago, I would also open the Walgreens app so the cashier could scan my loyalty card. Now, I just use Passbook at both establishments. The time and effort savings are admittedly incremental, but I’ll take what I can get in that department.

Passbook could definitely use more participating brands. And some features don’t seem fully baked yet. When I’m near my local Starbucks or Walgreens, for instance, I receive a notification on my iPhone’s lock screen, which states that sliding to unlock my iPhone will launch Passbook—but it doesn’t. These are small complaints, though. And if you haven’t given Passbook a try yet, now’s a good time to do so.