How Passbook Actually Works in iOS 6

The most confusing app on iOS 6 actually works well, despite it’s first impressions!

Maps isn’t the only new iOS 6 app that has been met with confusion and frustration. Before I heard about all the zany new Maps antics, and before I even received my new iPhone 5, I was boggled by one of the supposed biggest new features of iOS 6: Passbook. “How exactly does this app work?” I wondered as I launched it to see it’s puzzling default title screen. “Why is it having me download extra apps? Do they know how to communicate with Passbook? How do I get an actual pass into Passbook?”  These were all questions going through my mind at the onset of iOS 6, and as of now I’ve yet to see a truly comprehensive explanation of how Apple’s latest “digital wallet” application works. I’ve seen many “guides” that go over the features of this app and what it can do, but I’m here today to tell how it does what it does, and to hopefully help you get through some of the potential issues in getting your digital passes in order.

Before we start on how exactly the process of adding passes to Passbook works, lets cover some of the potential issues you might run into.

“Cannot Connect to iTunes Store” Error

This issue has been covered in depth by plenty of websites since the launch of iOS 6, but this wouldn’t be a good guide to Passbook if I didn’t mention it. While not an issue with the iPhone 5 (for the most part), people using iOS 6 on previous device models have been seeing this issue when they click the “App Store” link in the Passbook launch page. This issue doesn’t relate to your internet connection or the App Store, and is, as of writing this, simply a bug in iOS 6. Here’s how to get around the false App Store error:

1. Go to Settings > General > Date & Time and set “Set Automatically” to “OFF”.

2. Manually change the date to be either one month ahead of the current date, or one year (both seem to work for different people so do what works for you).

3. Go back to Passbook and try launching the App Store. It should work.

4. Download the apps you want.

5. Go back to Settings > General > Date & Time and switch “Set Automatically” back to ON.

I ‘m sure this issue will be fixed in the inevitable upcoming dot release of iOS 6, but until then, this is a workaround that seems to work for the majority of users.

Passbook Ignores Automatic Brightness Settings

The simple answer to this issue is: “Yep, it sure does!” It sounds really odd, but it is true that at the moment, on all iOS 6-enabled devices, launching Passbook will completely ignore the current brightness set by the device, and will default to a setting that is generally much brighter. Sadly, there isn’t anything that can be done about this bug at the moment. Again, I’m sure it will be quickly resolved with a future update, but at the moment, unless you have ultra sensitive eyes, it shouldn’t inhibit you from using Passbook. Just keep it in mind if you’re opening the app in a dark room. ;)  It has come to my attention that the automatic brightening in the Passbook app could be intentional to ensure that scanners are able to read  the codes on the iPhone screen. Apple hasn’t mentioned this anywhere officially, but it makes sense!

On a different note, there have been reports that automatic brightness adjustments behave a bit different on the iPhone 5 than on past devices. Originally, when presented with a change in lighting, early iPhones will immediately adjust the brightness accordingly. According to many reports, the iPhone 5 has a much more gradual change in brightness that appears to take longer. In addition, if you don’t initially have the brightness set to a low value (25% or less) with the automatic setting enabled, the change in brightness will be minimal, as this setting controls what minimum brightness the iPhone will default to in a low-light situation.

You can read more about iPhone 5 auto-brightness in this helpful Apple discussions thread.

How Passbook Works

Alright, let’s talk through the process of setting up Passbook, buying a ticket, and how it gets into passbook itself.

First off, you’ll need to download one of the few current apps available that have passbook integration. Here is a list of the compatible apps as of writing this article:

- Fandango
- Live Nation
- MLB.com
- Sephora to Go
- Ticket Master
- Walgreens

 Yes, I know Starbucks isn’t on the list, which is odd considering how it has been touted at press events, but I’m sure it will be there soon.

Step 1 – Download a Passbook-Compatible App
For this article I decided to download the Fandango app, as I already planned on seeing Looper this weekend, and figured I could test out Passbook in a real-life situation.

Step 2 – Make a Purchase with the  App
Even after you download the app, the default passbook welcome page won’t change. It’s a shame that the app doesn’t automatically acknowledge that you have X number of compatible apps installed. Because of this, I thought that I had done something wrong after initially downloading a couple compatible apps. Nope! Downloading an Passbook-linked app will not change what the Passbook app displays. You have to actually purchase a card/ticket with one of the apps before that happens.

Step 3 – Add your Purchase to Passbook from Within the 3rd-Party App
In my case, I logged into the Fandango app to purchase two tickets to Looper for me and my wife. The app mentioned a “mobile” ticket option at the home page, but nothing specifically mentioned Passbook, which only added to the confusion. I went ahead and tapped my through the normal process of selecting a movie, theater, and showtime. After entering my payment information and submitting the order, I was greeted with the following screen:

Upon tapping Add to Passbook I saw the following:

After confirming this info was correct and clicking “Add”, I was taken to the Passbook app, which immediately showed my movie ticket:

From here I was able to click the “i” button at the bottom right to choose options for the ticket:

I am assuming that the ticket will show up on my lock screen as I walk up to the theater!

Step 4 – Go to the Event!
I have returned from the movie to report that everything worked perfectly. I might also add that Looper was fantastic. ;)

As I parked my car at the theater this notification popped up. (Don’t mind the weird dildoesque creature on my wallpaper.) Sliding this revealed the QR code for my tickets, which was scanned by the ticket guy at the door. It was quick and painless.

I should mention that virtually shredding your tickets is like popping bubble wrap. I don’t know why, but it brought me great joy.

Passbook is really easy to use, but it relies heavily on third-party app support. Fandango provides a really straightforward way of getting your purchased ticket into Passbook, and one can only hope that other apps perform just as easily. For now, until Passbook receives support from a larger variety of vendors, it’s usage is limited, but still helpful. It would be nice if Apple were to update the default “empty” screen of Passbook to include further info on how it works, but until then I hope this guide has helped you better understand the process. If you have any questions or tales of your Passbook experiences, feel free to share them below!

TwitterFacebookGoogle BookmarksDiggStumbleUponShare
  • Psyrixx

    I think the brightness setting is intentional so that scanners can properly read the ticket. If you have a screen brightness set way too low, a laser will have a hard time seeing the pattern.

  • UNCTarheel

    Uggghhhh.. How do you get back to the “Apps for Passbook” after you get an initial app in passbook. How do you know which apps are now available. Without scouring the Internet?

  • http://www.touchgen.com/ Matt Dunn

    well I can confirm that when you “shred” your passes to where there are none left, it goes back to the default screen with the App Store link to the Passbook apps. I couldn’t find a way to bring that list up manually via iTunes, but granted I didn’t try too hard. ;)

  • http://www.touchgen.com/ Matt Dunn

    Ah that could very well be true.

  • Sako Hamilton

    Two apps I dont ever use ( newstand & now passbook)

  • jkmocanu

    Does anyone know if screen protectors would cause problems for scanners; thus, affecting the operation of PassBook? I’m asking to hear from people who own either the 4s or 5 iPhones? If this IS the case: does anyone know if there is a specific manufacturer of screen protectors that gets past this?