iOS 6 preview: Passbook

Passbook is a brand new, built-in app for iOS 6 designed to serve as a one-stop repository for all the tickets, coupons, gift cards, and other vouchers provided by third-party App Store apps. That means all the stuff in your Apple Store app, Starbucks app, Delta app, Fandango app, and more is easily accessible via a single Home screen icon, and what's more -- Passbook knows what time it is and where you are, so it can put whatever card you need right on your Lock screen, right when you need it.

Here's what Apple has to say about Passbook:

Your boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, loyalty cards, and more are now all in one place. With Passbook, you can scan your iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie, and redeem a coupon. You can also see when your coupons expire, where your concert seats are, and the balance left on that all-important coffee bar card. Wake your iPhone or iPod touch, and passes appear on your Lock screen at the appropriate time and place — like when you reach the airport or walk into the store to redeem your gift card or coupon. And if your gate changes after you’ve checked in for your flight, Passbook will even alert you to make sure you’re not relaxing in the wrong terminal.

And here's what they've shown off of it so far:

  • With Passbook, any properly formatting "pass" that's given to you in an app, emailed to you, or created for you to tap on in a website, can be added to Passbook. That's in contrast to the current, iOS 5 situation where tickets, gift cards, confirmations, coupons, are scattered across a variety of App Store apps.

  • When you get to the airline gate, the Starbucks line, or the movie theater, however, instead of having to find the appropriate app, launch it, and then find the appropriate pass in the app, Passbook collects them all together for you in one place.

  • Simply tap the pass you want to access, and it comes up full screen.

  • If you have more than one pass for the same thing -- 2 tickets for Amtrack, 3 coupons for Target, etc. -- you can swipe between them in full-screen mode.

  • Apple, of course, has designed them all beautifully...

  • ...And has created templates to help developers make beautiful passes of their own.

  • If the pass is a gift card, it can show up-to-date balance information right on the front.

  • If the pass is a ticket, and something like the gate changes, that will also be displayed right on the front.

  • To see additional information about a pass, tap the info button at the bottom right and it'll flip over, just like the Weather or Stocks apps. On the back, you can toggle Lock screen notifications on or off, and see additional information like confirmation numbers, locations, and other details about the specific pass.

  • And if you don't want the pass anymore, you can tap the trashcan button, confirm the deletion, and Apple will shred it for you in digital form.

  • Conveniently, Passbook can also present Lock screen notifications based on time and location. So you when you arrive at the right time or the right place, your passes pop up.

  • If something changes, like the gate information, you'll get a notification as well. And multiple notifications stack up, just as you'd expect.

Passbook is interesting in that a) instead of making a repository for something traditional, like documents, Apple is doing it for something still on the horizon, digital vouchers; and b) unlike Google and Microsoft, it's not yet a real mobile wallet with built-in payments yet.

That makes Passbook stuck in both the past and the future. It has QR and bar codes, not NFC or other wireless transaction processing. It hooks into existing apps, not Apple's massive iTunes cash register. It feels like a first step, a testing of the waters. The only question is how long it takes mainstream users to decide those waters and fine, and want to dive in, and for Apple to get the partnerships in place to take that next step.

For now, however, if you have passes in apps, Passbook makes it easier than ever to swipe, scan, and go.

iOS 6 is scheduled for release this fall, perhaps as soon as September 19. For more on iOS 6 check out:

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • What a disappointment. I hardly ever do any of the things mentioned. What I need is for my iPhone to replace my wallet. Period.
  • I think NFC would have been more useful, though that assumes faster adoption by retailers. When I fly it will be cool, but I don't fly everyday. It feels like a big half step. They are only supporting "app store" related tickets/coupons/vouchers. While convenient for Apple, it doesn't touch the everyday tasks that I perform and assumes that all my 1 off transactions are through some app store related partner.....which they are not. If it is not every-day-useful then it is yet another convenience that you have to work hard to integrate into your routine. I am ready for a complete digital wallet. I currently use the Book Book iPhone case to carry my phone and charge cards....I would love to ditch the charge cards and various gift certificates that I have. While this may address the gift certificate thing and remove some clutter, it is not universal there and still doesn't replace my debit/charge cards. BTW: does anyone know if you will be able to convert an existing card to digital? I have Starbucks and others, but they were gift cards. Most people I know don't give digital gift cards....literally feels like an empty handed gesture. That just gave me an image of everyone sitting around the xmas tree, no presents in sight, all staring at their individual iPhones to digitally unwrap their presents. I guess at some point xmas morning will consist of a everyone gathering around the Twitter tree.
  • Don't worry, there will always be fruitcakes and underwear.
  • I've successfully converted Starbucks gift cards to the digital Starbucks app with no problem, both on my iPhone and previously on my BlackBerry. I believe there's a "redeem" feature that allows you to enter the numerical code on the card. Now if only more Starbucks stores allowed you to scan.......
  • I like the updates on the new features in iOS 6. Thanks!
  • Passbook sounds great, and not only because I often fly with airplane and take the train.
    It could easily replace my shop cards (those member cards) and also the numberless gift cards I own. However, if Apple told us how to create a pass, they missed to tell us how are we gonna add more. This sounds like it's still Work In Progress in iOS 6, or I am missing something (then please tell me!).
    I saw websites that allow you to create completely customized pass, for Passbook. That means you can't just flash the barcode of your card, to get it in Passbook.
    That means every shop is gonna have to build their pass, to give them to us (as a file, I think). The iPhone is a very popular platform, and creating a custom card sounds VERY easy. So I guess the shops aren't gonna wait long to give us Passbook. But they still gotta do it, and before iOS 6 release, none of my favorite shops have given a clear answer on whether they're gonna give support to Passbook or not. But it sounds great if they give tool to convert gift cards to Passbook. Never more again I want to be in the city and "sh--, I forgot the gift card at home, so I'm gonna wait for next time to buy anything"...
  • There aren't any iOS 6 apps yet. Just before iPhone 5 is released, iOS 6 developers will be able to upload their apps, and then Passbook enabled apps will automagically start filling up Passbook for you.
  • Passbook is a fantastic native application that certainly has the right intention of allowing all businesses to put themselves into their clients iPhone; without the need of fighting for app real estate (which get harder and harder for non-gaming apps). The only trouble I found when first 'trying to use Passbook' is that it's not "that easy" to create, distribute and manage these passes. It's especially difficult if you are a small or medium sized company. You need coding knowledge, an apple developer certificate, you need a robust infrastructure and bandwidth (depending on how many passes you distribute and update at one time) and the willingness to maintain all of this as Apple upgrades Passbook. All of this is pretty specialist (and expensive) and it disappointed me to think that smaller and medium business would yet again have a barrier to entry and the big companies just get stronger with their marketing. That's why my business partner and I set up ( We want to make Passbook accessible to everyone. OK, not everyone might want it or choose to use it - and businesses should always consider a complementary marketing approach - but at least they should have the opportunity. We'll soon be releasing our online Pass Designer to developers, and as soon as iOS6 publically launches everyone will be able to access the Pass Designer. This tool will give businesses, and even individuals, the chance to quickly and easily design customised Passes. The WYSIWG (what you see is what you get) interface allows you to easily get creative designing passes without having to know how to code the Passbook .json file. We basically take care of all the tricky bits so business can continue to focus on running their business. With a little bit of thought on the redemption process, and integration into their existing Point Of Sale systems, businesses will be able to quickly help their customers get those annoying pieces of paper out of the wallets and into their phones.
  • First step and one that also allows for some functionality on existing devices. When the new John e that come out that has the hardware to support advanced features arrives (2012? 2013?) -the app will grow in use, and by then, many will be comfortable with it and progress, following g the digital pied piper (Apple) into the future.
  • While this is a cool idea , it's another work on progress like Siri. It will be useful couple years from now once it's copied by other phone manufacturers lol
  • Looking forward to trying Passbook. It's a good first step toward whatever Apple has in store for us (pun intended.) And you'd better believe that Apple has a long term plan for mobile contactless payments.
  • Has anyone heard anything about how passbook will handle shared gift cards, if at all? Suppose a couple of newlyweds receives a bunch of gift cards - can they both load the gift cards onto their iPhones and both be able to access the shared balance, or does the pass only associate with one Apple ID?