PassBook vs Wallet: the Unsolvable QR Code Problem

fullsizeoutput_6551Question #1: Do you remember Wallet before Apple Pay arrived?

Question #2 Did you use Wallet before Apple Pay arrived?

I thought so. Neither did I. My Wallet does have an iTunes Store Pass with QR code and an Apple Store Gift Card with QR code although I never use them. The only time I do anything optical is reading iTunes Card codes in iTunes app or reading a poster OR code with iOS 11 Camera app to get a web link. That’s it.

The problem with optical codes, QR, bar-codes, etc. is that it was, and still is, a royal pain getting any optical code thing (coupons, gift cards, one-time tickets, etc.) into Wallet. I would love an easy to use iPhone airline app that painlessly checks me in and quickly loads a boarding pass optical code into Wallet.

I have yet to have a user-friendly experience checking in with any airline app. Considering how creaky airline reservation systems are, and how reluctant airlines are to fix them, my chances of meeting a friendly easy to use airline app seems unlikely to happen. A piece of paper with a QR code printed on it will always be faster and more convenient than a smartphone, especially for international travel.

Getting coupon codes into Wallet is a pain as well. There are many Japanese food apps that list and categorize every restaurant: Tabelog, Hot Pepper, Gurunavi. But doing lots of searches on iPhone is a pain. iPad really shines here but iPad does not have a Wallet even though it has Apple Pay. It would be really nice to have an iCloud Wallet to store codes, coupons and things I collect on any of my devices.

Unfortunately Apple has not come up with that yet and smartphone optical codes are the forever unfulfilled promise, the ultimately underused technology because it is a pain in the ass. You will never be able to whip QR passes out of your pocket like Apple Pay Suica, ping, and you are on your way.

Think of it as going to the supermarket with mom. Mom’s wallet was always stuffed full of clipped coupons she could pull out at a moments notice as the cash register. It was like magic. When she sent me on a supermarket errand with coupons, I could never find them in time. The credit card won the race to cash register every time.

Until iPhone Wallet and optical codes become my super smart magic coupon mom, Apple Pay and NFC will win every time.