The Primetimeness of Apple’s Passbook  

I’m not really in the habit of breaking down other writer’s posts, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Erica Ogg wrote the article linked above at GigaOm, entitled Apple’s New Passbook Isn’t Quite Ready For Primetime. In it she describes the points that she feels are still showing signs of friction in the Passbook process.

I’m not trying to hurt any feelings or disparage anyone here, but it bears correcting.

The answers to these questions come from my research as well as talking to professionals from organizations and heads of mobile that are already implementing Passbook passes and have worked closely with Apple to do so.

Notifications - Ogg mentions that the notifications stayed on the screen and wouldn’t go away when her event got close. This is by design. It’s so you don’t have to fumble around in your phone to find the Passbook app and pull up your pass. Instead, you grab and swipe and scan, boom you’re through the gate or turnstile. The notification goes away after some time has passed. This is a blessing for the 20 people in line behind you. However, there needs to be work done here to differentiate a Passbook notification from a push notification, because it breaks the natural behavior that people expect.

Location awareness - The creator of the pass has to set up whether it’s location aware or not and has to set up the area parameters. If United didn’t do that, then it won’t happen. I used it on a Giants ticket and it worked perfectly as I approached the park.

Using the app more than once - I’m not really sure what she’s doing in this section. You should never have to go to the App Store looking for Passbook apps. Passes are issued to you in the normal flow of your purchasing or usage of goods or services, not sought out and added. If you buy a ticket for an event, there will be a button at or near the end of your purchasing cycle that lets you add that ticket to Passbook. The same goes for things like your Starbucks card, which will likely get added for the first time when you add a balance and stay as you use it or add more. Aside from updating a pass or — in the case of gift cards and ‘season pass’ type passes — adding it for the first time, apps have very little to do with passes or Passbook. Perhaps it’s Apple’s fault for putting an App Store button here at all.

Brightness - The app cleverly cranks your brightness for you so you don’t have to dip into your brightness settings at the kiosk in oder to get a pass to register in a scanner. As someone who has had to do this many times with AA’s own mobile ticketing codes, I think this is a brilliant piece of engineering, not a confusion point.

Design for the iPhone 5 - The app itself is actually designed perfectly for the iPhone 5, but the passes themselves have not been updated to fill the screen. The splash screen with no passes in it, for instance, looks just fine. It’s only once you get more than one type of pass in there that you see it’s actually updated for the iPhone 5 perfectly. The passes fan out the full length of the screen.

Passbook isn’t actually that complicated. Once it’s in practice, you’ll come across the moments that you’ll use them organically. Initially it feels awkward because you’re ‘looking’ for reasons to use it and maybe there aren’t any good ones. But, as people integrate it, the ‘Add to Passbook’ button will show up on more and more checkout screens and in more confirmation emails.

For my experiences with Passbook, you can check this post out. I’ll probably write something more on Passbook soon, I find it a fascinating piece of Apple’s services puzzle and I do agree that it has a long way to go yet.


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