We Haven’t Seen the Best of Passbook Yet

2012 11 26 14 38 50

Jeff Fagel of edo Interactive had a guest post on GigaOm yesterday about how Passbook is destined to go the way of Ping and die a slow ignominious death while Apple moves onto the next shiny thing. I think Jeff isn’t just dead wrong, but counting Apple out way, way too early.

At the beginning of his post Jeff makes the logical blunder that, I think, is the reason why he thinks Passbook is doomed:

This fall, the launch of Passbook marked Apple’s first foray into the crowded arena of alternative mobile payment schemes. Considering its well-founded reputation for producing disruptive tech, it’s tempting to assume Passbook is destined to do the same. And there’s certainly an argument to be made that the company has some distinct advantages in its favor – not least, a fanatical and still-growing iOS user base of tens of millions in the U.S. alone.
From: Why Passbook could join Ping in the Apple graveyard — GigaOm

Right, “alternative mobile payment schemes”. See, while I know Apple is touting this as part of Passbook, I don’t think that’s the real play at all. The real play is moving us away from all the silly paper tickets, loyalty cards, coupons, and other cruft that not only clutters our wallets, pockets, bags (purses too), but becomes trash that has to be dealt with.

2012 11 26 14 17 34I’m a pretty anti-paper kind of person. I don’t like having or using it when I don’t have to. Yes, I love my fountain pens (inky fingers since 1986), notebooks (Field Notes brand for pockets and all my bags, Moleskine for scribbles), and other writing ephemera I hate unneeded paper. Movie and show tickets, yes I’ve kept the ticket stub from the first opera I went to (also the first time I watched my then-girlfriend, now-wife perform on stage), but really we don’t need them and Passbook wants to fix that.

This is the crux of it. Apple is betting that all of us are tired of dealing with those antiquated things and would like something to replace them with. The other key is that Apple is betting that one barrier to larger-scale adoption is that there isn’t a big name backing the idea. Apple is a big name. Apple has its devices in millions of hands. If Passbook succeeds, it could very well leap across to other devices (if Apple shares, I know not a safe bet there). The reality is that I don’t think Apple really wants to get rid of debit or credit cards…

Passbook then is at best a novelty at this point. While there’s certainly the possibility Apple will revamp the app wholesale, and in turn gain meaningful traction, I’m more inclined to put my money on the bet it’s destiny is to join poor Ping in the ignominious Apple Graveyard. I think that nothing will replace ubiquitous credit and debit card payment systems until a service comes along that is a dramatically simpler solution, or offers compelling additional functionality that encourages people to leave their cards (and wallets!) at home. Given Apple’s dominance as the mobile device of choice around the world, Passbook has as strong a shot of success as anyone, but only if they figure out how to overcome these limitations. Until then, plastic will still be king.
From: GigaOm

The novelty will be that we can forget about slips of paper, coupons, or similar non-critical cards and just worry about keeping our phones handy (which are already, aren’t they?). Not payments, paper, that’s what Apple is really after.

  • Woodlandstar

    We’re haven’t seen??

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      Whoops, two different titles started…only one survived! Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/THExREALxTACO Jeremy Taco Patterson

    I agree that there is DEFINITELY a “market” or “niche” for something like Passbook to eliminate movie tickets, customer loyalty cards, coupons and even pre-paid gift cards.

    Those are vastly different that credit/debit cards, and I don’t think the credit and debit cards are what Apple is really going after.

    I expect our local theatre (we have many, but one in particular is VERY tech-forward and is my favorite because of that) to adopt Passbook for Pre-purchased tickets. You walk in, show your phone to the ticket scanner, hit the snack bar, and there you go. That is definitely where I see a BIG draw for passbook.

  • http://twitter.com/jf1216 jeff fagel

    Tris – Love the debate: my point is this: Will Passbook be more than simply an aggregator of digital cards and ‘slips of paper’ or instead offer something truly unique?
    If as you say
    “The novelty will be that we can forget about slips of paper, coupons, or similar non-critical cards,’ will Passbook have hundreds of screens to flip through? Imagine standing at a Grocery story, 3 kids in tow pulling candy off the checkout shelves. You log into your iphone, open up Passbook, the cashier is checking you out, your kids are screaming, the cashier asks if you have coupons……and then what? Is flipping through 20 screens to find your Crest & Goldfish coupons through your Passbook a better consumer experience than cutting coupons? Maybe, Maybe not? What about how it slows down the cashier line?

    Granted early, is Passbook now so different than @Cardstar? While there’s certainly the possibility Apple will revamp the app Passbook I’m pushing for it to be more than simply an aggregator of digital cards/coupons and offer something truly unique.

    My comments around Mobile payments ‘not the right arena to judge Passbook’ are fair. Mobile Shopping is one of the many ways of potentially using Passbook (see Starbucks integration) so then is Apple aiming to be your Mobile wallet? Or a mix between: @Belly @Levelup and @retailmenot
    Thanks for your post
    Jeff
    @jf1216

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      Thanks for commenting Jeff! The fumbling at the checkout is a great point. Yeah I have my loyalty card for the store I frequent right below my debit card, one motion and both are ready for the check out. No handing phones to people or the clerk potentially dropping your device to scan it (which I hadn’t considered). Maybe an NFC-enabled Passbook with some location smarts would help, but that will certainly take time.

      I’m keeping an eye on things like Lemon Wallet as well. Maybe another alternative.

      Yes, Passbook can be so much more. Maybe Apple is testing it and seeing where it goes. Maybe Eddy Cue will inject some life into it. Who knows, but I hope it succeeds.

      All this said…I do love going to the movies with my iPhone and scanning the eticket and having everything done.

  • Baiju M

    The Passbook compatible coupon generator companies are diluting the real potential of Passbook. In their opinion, its just a coupon aggregrator. They are right from their view point, as who cannot ignore the possibility of coupon business. That’s just one angle to Passbook potential. Yes, this can help in a customer tailored coupon pushed directly to user’s phone. Another possibility, customers subscribes to his areas on interest for which he would like to have coupons pushed.

    The coupon fumbling at cash counter is a real practical issue. But these coupons are location sensitive, the coupons can very well be tailored to come to the top of your pile based on which shopping center you are in, isn’t it?

    People seems to be ignoring the possibility of Pre paid cash cards and gift cards which can be re deemed at outlets. Starbucks cards are an existing version of the same. the balance on the cards are updatable from a centralized application server. So,if that possibility exists why can’t cash cards or gift cards? Banks could really look at this possibility – where a user uses a bank app or website, generate a Pre populated gift card or cash card which can be forwarded to a friend for use. ATMs also can be tailored to accept this cards for cash with drawal – a wild imagination, but definitely possible as the Passbook doesn’t need a fancy NFC, just a barcode reader.

    What really excites me is , this Passbook ecosystem is so easy for an establishment to join. Doesn’t need any additional infrastructure like NFC or anything and that’s what it differentiates it self from other solutions available now.