Apple's Passbook has no payment function of its own — it is a blank canvas for other developers to add their ideas. In this way, Apple's featureless mobile wallet is fast becoming one of the most full-featured options available today.
One of the latest examples is Wincor Nixdorf's PC/E Mobile Cash app. Whereas most mobile card apps focus on spending at the point of sale, the ATM maker's app focuses on a digital approach to the functions debit cards perform at the ATM.
"We have opted for integration in Passbook because we consider it to be very customer-friendly, so picking up the money at the ATM is quick, comfortable and secure," says Anja Lindner, head of marketing at Wincor Nixdorf.
Lemon Wallet is another example. The app, which allows users to store card-account details, focuses more on tracking spending than it does on initiating payments. It allows users to store 25 receipts a month for free — or 500 if they pay a fee — and 15% of the app's 2.5 million users manage their receipts through Lemon, the company says. Lemon also offers transaction monitoring through a partnership with BillGuard.
Lemon integrated its app with Passbook in December.
The Clutch mobile wallet, which also connects to Passbook, allows users to search daily deals and merchant sites through the app. It also handles e-gifting.
Within Passbook, these apps exist side-by-side with more conventional payment apps, such as the Starbucks card. Passbook can determine which app to load based on factors such as the user's location — for example, the Starbucks app can appear on the phone's screen when a user walks into the coffee shop.
"The value of integrating into the Apple Passbook is being one of the first to provide financial services through the Passbook Wallet," says Dave Kaminsky, a senior analyst with Mercator Advisory Group. "It's long been assumed that Apple intends to use Passbook as a mobile wallet, so Apple would have every reason to support passes like Wincor Nixdorf's that would help encourage that type of use."
Wincor Nixdorf also has an Android version of the PC/E Mobile Cash app, which was first launched in October. Some Android phones support Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which is used by Google Wallet and Isis for point of sale payments.
The system is currently available worldwide. The company is looking for financial institutions to pilot the technology, Lindner says.
"There is little inherent downside in changing form factors from a plastic card to a mobile device for anyone besides card manufacturers, although many of them are involved in the production of NFC chips," says Kaminsky. "For everyone else on the payment chain the process is exactly the same."
Consumers are already using the mobile app to pick up money at ATMs, with the concept being most used in African countries off the Ivory Coast. Algerian Gulf Bank (AGB) and Orange, the French multinational telecommunications company, are already using the concept, says Lindner.
"Smartphones are increasingly becoming part of everyday life," Lindner says. "The success of a bank in terms of customer preference will be more and more influenced by how banks are answering to the natural behavior of their customers – which, in a multichannel world, includes for example giving the customer the choice where and when to interact with the bank."