Apple’s Schiller: iOS 6 Passbook works in place of NFC

Ina Fried for All Things D:

In an interview, Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller said that Passbook alone does what most customers want and works without existing merchant payment systems. It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.”

Near Field Communication, or NFC, has been promoted as The Next Big Thing in smartphones – technology that will make it easier to buy products and exchange data using smartphones and other devices.

Some pundits and tech bloggers had thought the iPhone 5 would have NFC built-in, but it doesn’t. Passbook, a new feature of iOS 6, enables users to keep track of boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty reward programs and other services.

And by virtue of it being built into the operating system, not the device, Passbook will have a much larger potential installed base right off the bat, when iOS 6 is released next Wednesday.

  • Zeatrix

    Too bad. For example, the Clarion line of hotels (at least here in Sweden) have installed NFC enabled locks on their doors so that you can download your key to your phone and won’t even have to go to the reception when you arrive.

    Such things won’t work with Passbook. I predict Passbook won’t be as big a hit as Apple seems to think.

    • VGISoftware

      You predict wrongly.

      Passbook will prove to be a significant convenience to many users.

      • Zeatrix

        The thing is: I see NFC cash registers at my local supermarket and other stores where I live but I don’t see any Passbook app for it.

    • There are other technological solutions that can accomplish that same goal, it doesn’t need to be NFC. Think: Square’s auto-open a tab feature in their Pay with Square app.

      • Zeatrix

        I don’t know if I want my picture to show up in the register at the shop every time I walk by. Besides, that thing will never be big where I live, Sweden.

    • DaveChapin77

      Holy crap, anyone can basically hack into my Room at that chain?

      • Zeatrix

        And you think NFC is easier to “hack” than conventiontal hotel key cards? Think again.

  • Rmiller

    Phil is wrong saying that NFC doesn’t solve anything, unless he is referring to the security flaws it apparently has making it not good at what it is supposed to be doing.

    Maybe Apple has a better wireless authentication scheme up its sleeve related to the acquisition of Authentec?

  • Mother Hydra

    I just don’t see this as a viable option for much of the developed world at this point in time. Where is the mature infrastructure? Maybe in a few years when it catches on, but this feels like the right choice in my gut. How is this better than my starbucks app, for instance. I really think passbook is adequate for 90% of all this. It just requires assistance from a processing company like square, equi, etc.

    And what if square and its ilk obviate the need for NFC- I think THIS is a more likely future.

  • VGISoftware

    @ Rmiller “Phil is wrong saying that NFC doesn’t solve anything,”

    You’re putting words in his mouth. He said it “isn’t clear” Big difference. I think it’s wise of Apple to let other try NFC and let them flop.

    • Ron Miller

      @VGISoftware “He said it “isn’t clear” Big difference.”

      That’s true … there is a difference.

      I was thinking about this a little more. To me, the big thing that NFC is trying to solve (and which Passport doesn’t) is to be a form of authentication that does not involve human involvement. The teller at Starbucks can scan codes from your iPhone, but without NFC you cannot buy items at a vending machine, use it to unlock hotel doors, etc.

      I am wondering if Apple might be worried that NFC isn’t secure enough. I mused above that apple might have something up its sleeve related to Authentec. Maybe Apple wants to pair NFC with some sort of authentication such as fingerprinting so that the two of them together can verify that the holder of the phone is actually the expected person (i.e. if you lose your phone, no one can use it to make purchases, etc.).

      • Steven Fisher

        Bar codes. Bar code reader. Pretty simple: decades old, tried-and-true technology. NFC really doesn’t add much to it.

        • Ron Miller

          True enough.

          However, NFC seems a bit more secure to me. You can make a copy of a bar code to fool a bar code reader. I don’t think that an NFC code can be fooled so easily (although I’ve heard that NFC does have some security issues as well).

          I think that NFC is also faster than bar code readers. I was reading today about the public transportation in Japan. I used to live there, and when you take the trains there, you can use a Suica card (a card with an NFC chip inside) to get on and off the train, and your account is automatically debited the correct amount depending on where you get off. Previously, you needed to line up and buy tickets and try and figure out how much it would cost to your destination by looking at a huge transit map of Tokyo. The Suica card was later extended to be used to buy things from vending machines, convenience stores, etc.

          It is actually extremely convenient.

          I just read that the Suica card is being extended to Android phones. Now, with an NFC equipped Android phone, you can swipe it to get on and off trains, buy things at 7-11 or vending machines, etc. The transactions are logged on your phone, and you can recharge your Suica account directly from the phone. To me, this is a brilliant use of NFC.

          The bar code reader might be adaptable to the vending machines and 7-11 stores, but it would be less convenient. For the trains, a bar code reader would probably not be fast enough, and would require you to turn on your phone and get it to the right screen. With NFC, you just swipe your phone and that is it.

          • Steven Fisher

            Yeah. I’m not saying NFC doesn’t add something, but I don’t think it’s much.

            And given how much easier it’ll be to roll out barcodes to existing stores, I can see barcodes being adopted this year and NFC being forever a technology of the future.

  • CapnVan

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but…

    In the US, isn’t the big player in NFC, and the one poised for potentially explosive growth with the right infrastructure, Google Wallet?

    Without a competing, built-in product, wouldn’t NFC on the iPhone encourage users to pick Wallet? And potentially get locked in?

    Maps? Dropping the YouTube app? Isn’t it pretty clear that Apple’s trying to shove Google off of iOS as fast as possible?

    So why would they want to open up a potential market for Google when they’re not ready to box them out?

    (A number of cogent points have been made about markets outside the US, both in the developed and developing world. But I think it’s fair to say that Apple sees dominance in the US market as its key to success, and one that may well lead to inroads overseas. [Would iProducts be so popular in China, for example, if they weren’t seen as aspirational?])

    • It’s not so much that Apple is trying to shove Google off iOS as Apple likes to own every part of their products, as that often makes for a better product for most people.

      I live in San Francisco and see Google Wallet stickers in tons of liquor stores, grocery stores, and corner stores. I’ve seen zero people use it. It’s anecdotal but I’ve heard the same thing from many other people too. Maybe people use Google Wallet prevalently in other areas of the world but I’ve seen even less Wallet presence in flyover states like Minnesota and similar patterns in NY that I see in SF.

      So I guess what I’m saying is: it’s fun to talk about how people could go to Google Wallet, but the reality is they aren’t.

      • CapnVan

        “I live in San Francisco and see Google Wallet stickers in tons of liquor stores…”

        Just how many liquor stores do you frequent?! ;-p

  • Ryan

    First off, I would’ve loved NFC in the Iphone 5 but apparently they’re not finished. And as a designer I ask the question; Would you rather have a flawed and incomplete technology or a perfected system thats designed and tailored to apple specifically? Swiping your phone over a device doesn’t seem “Apple made”, it seems generic. I understand Apple would bring NFC to light, but clearly theres not a calling for it right now. Only nerds like us know what it is and the benefits. To be on the bright side, maybe the chip is installed but the softwares not there yet. But that’s being super optimistic.

  • Apple has never been one to turn itself into a guinea pig for fad technology. There was no QR code reader built into iOS, either.

  • Mother Hydra

    NFC- still working out the basics and apple likes to add only mature technologies to its flagship device, Siri not withstanding. I just ran into an article late today saying that Isis is delaying the launch to fine-tune the end user (you, me) and customer (merchant) experience.

    So. They were supposed to launch this summer, well we passed it. So they instead will release a progress update in October. Riiiight, this bodes well.

    Again, a solution in need of a problem. Passbook seems to fill any potential void and it actually works at places like starbucks and the airport.