updated 07:54 pm EDT, Mon October 15, 2012
Logical progression of Apple Store app abilities
Apple, which launched the "EasyPay" system of allowing users to buy accessories and self-checkout at Apple Stores by scanning a bar code with the Apple Store app on their iOS device late last year, plans to add Passbook functionality that could allow users to buy (and eventually even reload) Apple Store gift cards, possibly book Genius Bar appointments or provide reservations on top-selling items, or allow users to buy more expensive hardware and other items using Passbook's pay codes.
Currently, customers who have the Apple Store app on their iOS devices can buy select accessories and pay for them directly using the credit card tied to their iTunes account. The buyer simply scans the desired item using the device's camera, then verify that they want to buy it by confirming their iTunes credentials. The company is updating in-store EasyPay POS software for employees, who typically carry custom-backed iPod Touch devices equipped with card readers and the software. Under the new system, the custom case will no longer block the higher-resolution back camera, allowing it to be used to scan Passbook codes.
The upgrade could allow users to finally purchase hardware and other more expensive items via their mobile device, with a "pay code" appearing in Passbook once the credit card confirms the purchase and alerts the store to set aside the item. Users would simply let employees scan the pay code on their iDevice in the store, and walk out with the merchandise. Apple currently has over 400 million iTunes accounts that have credit cards attached to them.
The feature could conceivably be rolled out in time for the holiday shopping season, and could help Apple stores deal with the expected rush as well as make more users aware of the Passbook app and its potential. Already a sleeper hit with baseball fans, movie buffs and air travellers, the app continues to gain support from various businesses. Recently, ticket sellers tickets.com, Eventbrite and Ticketmaster have updated their apps to add support for Passbook, along with Starbucks, American Express and others.