Passbook is the coolest iOS 6 feature you can’t use

passbook is the coolest ios 6 feature you cant use fl
There are a lot of great (and not-so-great) things about iOS 6, and Passbook falls somewhere in between. Apple first introduced us to its digital wallet back at WWDC, a clean, unified payment system on your iPhone that kept track of your various loyalty cards and respective balances. The image showed off accounts with Target, Fandago, Starbucks, Amtrak, United, among others. It looked simple, easy, obvious.

And it would be – or rather, will be – once brands get on board. But consider the stock image Apple keeps showing off with Passbook something of a wish list for the time being.

When iOS 6 officially dropped this week, the native Passbook app showed up on the home page, and I hope I’m not the only one to experience the disappointment of selecting the icon only to be bounced to the App Store where I was given a choice of four apps I could add to the wallet. On Wednesday, the only options were Fandango, Live Nation, Lufthansa, and MLB.com At Bat. Not exactly a stellar lineup for launch day.

passbook nowBut things are already getting better: Open your Passbook, hit the App Store prompt, and you’ll find a much better variety at your disposal. Now, American Airlines, Sephora, Belly Card, Target, United Airlines, American Express, and Walgreens are all now working with Passbook to bring you digital payment and account handling services – that’s a pretty impressive bump since opening day, and the list is continuing to grow. A number of other outlets have announced they’ll be hitting Passbook soon, including Starbucks (within weeks) and a variety of theme parks. A few b2b brands, like Tello, have also announced they’ll be building tools to help brands manage their Passbook integration 

You have to give Apple its due on filling out the selection as quickly as possible – however, there are some other significant kinks, and they mostly boil down to a huge lack of instruction on how this thing works. After you’re bounced to the App Store and it’s made (at best) moderately clear these are the Passbook-friendly apps, you download a few. Then you’d expect upon re-opening Passbook that they would be there, right? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. They simply are installed on your screen, like any other app, with no indication on the iPhone’s part how you get them into your new, iOS digital wallet.

In order for these apps to sit in your Passbook a la that pretty little stock image we keep seeing from Apple, it appears you have to use them first. But nowhere is this made explicitly clear in Passbook or the participating apps. There’s currently no way to be in Passbook and immediately load apps into the wallet – which seems like the most obvious way to create a seamless, easy user experience.

And then there’s this problem:

passbook bug

Occasionally when you hit the App Store prompt from Passbook, you’ll get the above message. When you exit out of Passbook and shut it down, however, you’ll be able to get into the App Store on it’s own. Frustrating? You bet. Macworld found a fix you can check out here, but that’s just a glitch a finished product shouldn’t have.

Reviews about how it actually works have been varied. Given the fact that compatible apps are still being introduced, the Passbook testing has been timid. For the most part, however, early users found the process complicated and buggy.  

Passbook could be great, and it’s almost certain that bug fixes are on the way. But right now, veteran mobile wallet Lemon’s quick and easy camera capture for card storage is far superior, as is PassSource, where you can log in via desktop for set up purposes. Passbook assume that we can go all-digital, all at once, but did so without partners totally in place of a unified system. Oh, and also, we still have physical wallets full of cards that we need to do something about. It’s messy, it’s buggy, it’s broken – in short, Passbook has big dreams and decent potential, but right now it’s simply an unfinished product on Apple’s part, and the nicest thing anyone can say about it is that it’s a work in progress. 

[Additional reporting by Francis Bea]

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