Passbook is one of those iOS apps that is better in theory than in reality. The concept is a version of the digital wallet. Instead of holding your money, it holds on to all those plastic loyalty cards, tickets for movies and concerts, even airline boarding passes. Easy digital access to those bits of paper you’re always fumbling to find. Neat.
In reality, Passbook is a barely there app that only works in conjunction with a limited number of partners. If you fly often or go to more than a few ticketed events per month, it’s a handy app. But this isn’t an optional download, it’s part of the official iPhone landscape so it ought to serve more people than that.
The app got a little bump up this week when Coupons.com joined the party. If you access their website through your phone, you’ll find a list of discount coupons from the usual suspects such as Old Navy, Michaels and PETCO. Click to add and the coupon goes into your Passbook. Then, when you arrive at the store, you just open Passbook, scroll to the coupon you want and show it to the cashier. They scan it and you get out the door for less than the guy behind you.
For retailers, Passbook coupons are a nice nudge, reminding shoppers to visit your store instead of the competitor’s. But how many people will bother? I use mobile coupons but switching back and forth between my phone for the coupon and my wallet for my money takes extra effort. It’s worth it as far as I’m concerned but I’m not convinced Passbook will up overall coupon usage. It’s still an app for the diehard folks.
What I don’t understand are the Passbook options that duplicate other apps. For example, Starbucks. You can use your Starbucks app to push your Starbucks rewards card to your Passbook. Okay, but why bother? Why not pay with your Starbucks app?
Maybe, in the future, when hundreds of companies have loaded their loyalty cards on to Passbook, it will be a truly useful service. Right now it feels like a confused beta test – is it a coupon app, a wallet app, or a frequent flyer’s best friend. I don’t think it can be all of those things at one time.
Do you use Passbook?