Apple has taken the first tentative steps towards the development of a mobile wallet with the introduction of a new app that lets users store all their loyalty cards, passes and tickets in one place.
Integrated into the latest iOS 6 for iPhones and iPads, the Passbook app puts things like store cards, airline boarding passes and concert tickets into a simple wallet display on the device screen.
The app uses geolocation technology to automatically display passes on the user's device lock screen when they may be of use.
Demonstrating the system, Apple used the example of a Starbucks card, which would automatically appear when the customer walks into a store. They can then buy coffee by scanning a QR code or check their balance.
The app will be available when iOS 6 arrives in the Autumn although Apple has not provided details on how many partners it has signed up so far.
Finextra verdict: Apple's Passbook concept looks remarkably similar to Square's CardCase app, presenting coupons and tickets in an attractive easy-to-access user interface. It's presented as a pure loyalty play, but it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to see credit and debit cards loaded into the wallet - potentially in a future NFC-chipped iPhone release.
Apple currently has 400 million active accounts with credit card details registered for its iTunes store. We can see the store retaining its primacy as a means for paying for digital content, but Apple has no need to make a big play for the wider payments market. Why bother with all the complexities and headaches of setting up a new payment network, when you can ride the existing rails to your destination? For Apple, the objective - as always - is to use its unrivalled expertise in user-friendly digital design to bring more consumers into its own tightly-controlled ecosystem.
Rather than fighting the existing payments infrastructure, Apple's ultimate goal may just be to become a ubiquitous part of that infrastructure by supplying the digital wallets that replace the physical leather variety that we all carry around today. In this way, it becomes the fabled 'one platform that rules them all'.
A similar approach is being touted by Silicon Valley start-up Lemon.com TechCrunch: Mobile money management app Lemon launches digital wallet. We may be comparing apples with lemons, but surely there can be only winner here.