NEW YORK (MainStreet)Just when most digital wallet experts had forgotten the year-old Apple Passbook --widely dismissed as ineffectual and neutered -- a discordant voice wants to get an unexpected message across: just maybe Passbook is the stealth winner of the early rounds of the e-wallet wars, and it is doing it by sneaking in a powerful but largely uncommented upon transaction capability.
"We are seeing many, many dollars added into Passbook and spent by consumers," said Gene Cornfield, a vice president at CashStar, a digital e-gift card company that works with an A list roster of companies from Starbucks to the Gap and Dell to Sephora.
The knock against Passbook - introduced by Apple at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference 2012 - has always been what it doesn't do which is that it cannot be coaxed into use as a tap and pay digital wallet. From the beginning, critics have been scathing that the bowdlerized app disappoints - but maybe there is more to this story. Just maybe Passbook, which runs only on iPhone, has another, enticing side that has stayed largely hidden.
The key is that Passbook - billed as a kind of digital repository for loyalty cards, airplane tickets, and the other stuff we cram into leather wallets - has the ability to store e-gift cards that can be used at point of sale. Dozens of cards - available through the Apple Store or the associated app -- are sold in amounts that climb as high as $2,000 and they are as good as cash at the issuing merchants.