I keep on asserting that the scope and importance of Passbook—a new feature in iOS 6 that allows you to store airline boarding passes, coupons, etc.—is massive, and people are asking why.
Companies (airlines, retailers, etc.) are going to fall over themselves to get their “Passbook strategy” in place to get themselves into the hands of millions of savvy customers. Not having some sort of presence or offering for Passbook will soon be as strange as not having a Twitter account or Facebook page. And on the flip-side, customers will expect, even demand, that their favourite companies to part of Passbook. I’m a loyal Virgin Atlantic customer: in a short time I would expect to be able to board a plane with Passbook.
iPhone users will get used to the convenience and presence of their favourite companies in their pocket, and again come to expect and demand the ability to do more with their favourite brands and companies with their phone.
When the technology is ready and proven (it isn’t yet), Apple will integrate near-field communication (NFC) technology in the iPhone. Then when a new generation of iPhones are released with NFC comes with it the ability to pay for services and goods (with their iTunes credit card information), claim a coupon, check-in to an flight, travel on the Underground, etc.
But the ability to do these things is only half the story.
With Passbook, Apple are “baking in” the behaviour, familiarity, and software that underpins this sort of interactivity. Of course, Samsung could release a half-baked NFC solution tomorrow, yet how many companies would seriously take notice, and align their systems with them? None. Yet because Apple have managed to create an eco-system where millions of users entrust their credit card and personal details with them, aligning transactional systems with Apple and iPhone users alone suddenly becomes very compelling.
The immediate use case for Passbook on day zero is limited, but what it will achieve is a familiarity and expectation, all in preparation for subsequent iterations of hardware, software and infrastructure development where your phone replaces all the cash and loyalty/membership ephemera that sites in your wallet.