Apple WWDC: iOS6 Passbook app prepares iPhone to act as e-wallet

Apple’s new Passbook app for iOS6, unveiled at the firm’s WWDC developer conference, readies the ground for the iPhone 5 to be used as an electronic wallet, according to industry analysts. 

The new app was pitched by Apple executives on Monday as a user-friendly holder for electronic cinema tickets, boarding passes and Starbucks vouchers, all of which use barcodes on-screen. The iPhone will detect if you're at the airport, for instance, and fish out the relevant electronic documents.
“Passbook takes all of these passes and combines them together in one place, and integrates it right into the OS, and they are beautiful,” said Scott Forstall, the man in charge of iOS and tipped as future leader of Apple.
But observers said such examples are merely a prelude to Passbook and the next iPhone acting as a fully-fledged electronic wallet, probably with “wave and pay” technology built in.
Apple’s main smartphone manufacturing rival, Samsung, has already included the necessary hardware – a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip – into its latest flagship, the Galaxy SIII. In the United States Google is promoting its own app and in-store system to enable consumers to pay by waving their smartphone at the till, Google Wallet.
For now, Apple may seem behind in developing what could become a very lucrative new source of revenue for the smartphone industry, but an iPhone capable of replacing credit and debit cards has long been anticipated. Apple hired Benjamin Vigier, a well-known expert in NFC in 2010, as its head of “mobile commerce”.
By first acting as an all-in-one app for electronic tickets, Passbook would later make an ideal home for iPhone owners’ electronic money, analysts said.
Charles Golvin of Forrester said Passbook was a “harbinger of them doing much, much more” in mobile payments.
As part of chief executive Tim Cook’s opening presentation at WWDC, he highlighted the fact that Apple already has the details of more than 400 million credit cards, collected via iTunes accounts. By offering NFC-enabled iPhone owners the opportunity to use theirs to fund an electronic wallet, Apple could leapfrog Google and other players in the nascent field.
Apple may not even need to rely on NFC to take the lead. PayPal's mobile payments app, inStore, introduce last month, uses generates barcodes to verify payments in stores, so Apple could also take that approach until consumers become more comfortable with "wave and pay" purchasing.
The future will be clearer for iPhone owners in Autumn, when both iOS6 will be released and the iPhone 5 (actually the sixth iteration of the device) is expected to be revealed at one of Apple's higher-profile product launches.



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