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At WWDC 2012, Passbook was called a “key feature” of iOS 6. A year later, the Apple keynote went by without a single mention of the digital wallet app. Its conspicuous absence could mean Apple (s aapl) doesn’t consider it worth mentioning. Or, it could mean Apple is waiting for a bigger rollout when it announces new hardware this fall.
Passbook is Apple’s catchall app for iPhone users to keep their digital coupons, airline and train tickets, movie passes and rewards and gift cards. And we know this much: from the screenshots of the new iOS 7 homescreen, the Passbook icon has been redesigned along with everything to keep similar color palette and consistent look with Apple’s other new apps we got a glimpse of, like GameCenter, Calendar, Weather and more.
According to someone who’s used the app in the iOS 7 beta, the app itself looks and acts identical to the iOS 6 version of the app, save for two tweaks: there is now a barcode scanner built into Passbook. That means to add tickets or passes to Passbook you can scan a barcode; previously you could only download from email, the web or from other iOS apps. And that heavily skeuomorphic paper shredder animation that popped up when you deleted a pass is gone — it’s now just two lines that meet in the middle of the screen to wipe the old pass away. It’s very consistent with the overall design changes in iOS 7.
There are plenty of good reasons Apple may not have talked about Passbook. Perhaps, like many of the things from the Scott Forstall era, the company wanted to downplay it; Forstall was the driving force behind the real-world imagery like the paper shredder in Passbook. And like the green felt of GameCenter, that’s all gone — Apple execs clearly couldn’t resist zinging these Forstall touches during the keynote.
Or maybe Apple has something even bigger planned. Tim Cook did note on Monday that Apple now has 575 million active credit card accounts from customers, which he says is the largest collection in one store on the web. What he didn’t say, but what is quite obvious, is what a good basis this would be for a payments service.
If Apple is cooking up such a service, it’s possible there will be a hardware element involved in it. Apple and AuthenTec were working on something together before Apple acquired the security firm whose expertise is in mobile payments last year. If that ends up being some sort of biometric security feature — a fingerprint sensor on the phone’s home button, as some have speculated — built into a new device, then Apple probably wouldn’t have much to say about any associated service in the meantime.