The Apple iPhone 5 goes on sale today, with a larger 4-inch screen, new slimline design and faster processor. The phone launches running iOS 6, the latest version of Apple’s operating system, also available for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4. Among the new features available in iOS 6 is Passbook.

We first heard about Passbook at the Worldwide Developers Conference in April. What is Passbook and how does it work?

What is Passbook?

Passbook is a virtual ticket wallet for your iOS device. It can be used for storing tickets, such as boarding passes for flights and sports tickets; loyalty cards and booking confirmations.

All these apps are displayed like a wallet, when you get to your destination instead of opening your physical wallet and fumbling for your ticket, open Passbook, select the app and the present the QR code or barcode on your iPhone for scanning.

As well as cutting down on the amount of things you carry on your pocket, in theory discount offers could be sent directly to your phone, so you don't have to print them out or receive them in the post.

Apple passbook

How does it work?

Passbook is a portal for existing apps with these functions, which (according to Apple) need to be enabled. Passbook then automatically pulls these together, along with information on email,  so you've got a virtual wallet containing passes and tickets.

Passport is time and location based, pinpointing exactly where you are and what time it is. That way when you reach a location - such as an airport, or coffee shop - it will automatically display relevant passes on the Lock Screen, enabling you to launch them instantly.

This location awareness could also be used as a method for retailers to push offers directly too you - you might be walking past Starbucks and the latest offers appear on the lock screen.

Passbook updates your vouchers and tickets automatically with any changes, which means you can keep up to date without worrying about having to constantly refresh your browser, this is especially useful if your airline changes the gate. 

Which companies support Passbook?

In the US Fandango, Delta, TARGET, W Hotels, American Airlines and Starbucks are companies that have signed up to Passbook. In the UK we’re still waiting for confirmation of participating retailers and services.

 

 

We’re expecting retailers that already have apps incorporating virtual tickets and scannable barcodes to upgrade their apps to Passbook, so Starbucks, BA and Subway and hopefully (in the future) companies like Odeon. 

What devices support Passbook?

Passbook will work with any device Apple that will get iOS 6 this includes: the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 4th gen. It will be compatible with the new iPad and iPad 2, although flashing an iPad to pay in a shop is not the most practical solution.

 

When does Passbook launch?

Passbook is in iOS 6, which will be available to download on September 19th, it's pre-installed on the Apple iPhone 5, set for launch on September 21st.

What is the future of Passbook?

The term ‘virtual wallet’ has been used to describe Passbook - a term that seems fairly accurate and in the future it’s not too much of stretch of the imagination that it could replace your entire wallet.

Could Passbook be used as a mobile payment system? Apple hasn’t made any reference to Passbook working as payment system, it’s merely to store tickets and loyalty cards. But Apple by its own admission has got 400 million users credit card details, so will iOS users eventually starting paying using their device and the credit card tied to an iTunes account?