|Apple has updated its Apple Store iOS app to add compatibility with Siri, and a new online portal for buying gift cards delivered by email and now Passbook compatible. In addition, the app now supports Apple's EasyPay system in Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. The changes, implemented to make shopping easier in crowded Apple Stores during the holiday season, allow uses to buy and send Apple Store gift cards (which are distinct and not compatible with iTunes gift cards) to themselves or others.
Currently, Apple uses iTunes gift cards to buy digital goods sold through its online App Stores -- including videos, audiobooks, music, ebooks, e-magazines, iOS and Mac apps. The Apple Store gift cards are used to buy hardware and boxed software sold through the physical and online Apple stores. A new landing page for the purchase of Apple Store cards is now live, and can be accessed from the Apple Store app as well as through a web browser. The value of the digital Apple Store gift cards can by set by the purchaser, and emailed to anyone.
For iPhone owners running iOS 6, the digital cards (once received) can be added to Passbook, Apple's "virtual wallet" application. When a user arrives at an Apple retail store, the gift card will appear in the Passbook app, even on the lock screen of the phone. The feature currently works in the US only.
Users can invoke the app by simply using Siri on a compatible device, or open it like other apps. Asking Siri a question like "where can I get an iPhone 5" or "how much are a pair of Earpods" will open the app to the correct device listing. The app is free of charge, and includes instructions on how to use EasyPay -- a system where buyers can use the iPhone to scan the barcode of the product they want and then direct payment to the credit card already on file with Apple through the users' iTunes account.