Passbook: Only As Good As iOS 6 Maps

Late last night I was checking for app updates (the Sparrow iPhone 5 update is nearly done) when I saw that Starbucks had released a Passbook enabling update to their app. The frustration that it hadn't been updated to handle iPhone 5's larger screen was overwhelmed by excitement to see Passbook finally in action. 

In a nutshell, Passbook is an iOS 6 app (that they snuck onto your first home screen) with hooks into the phone's location data such that it can pull up passes you'd like to have handy when you walk into a particular location. Passes can be movie tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards, or other scannable things. The flagship use case for Passbook for me is Starbucks: After establishing a pass for my gold card, I'd simply walk up to the counter, place my elaborate drink order (black coffee, either hot or cold), and whip out my phone only to find a barcode waiting patiently on my lock screen ready to scan for payment. Now extend this to your boarding pass automatically appearing at the airport, your gym card, etc. It's a pretty slick idea with very little barrier to entry for most businesses. You can read more about Apple's grand dream for Passbook here

First Try: Fail

So this morning I raced to my local Starbucks ready to Passbook my way into a venti black iced coffee. The night before I had set up the pass and chose my favorite Starbucks locations that it would automatically pop up at (10 maximum), so she was ready to go.  I pull into the parking lot and wake the phone up. The GPS indicator pops up for a bit, and along with my heart sadly fades to black. No notification. I check the settings - everything looks good. I gave it more time as I entered the store, but it wasn't going to come up on its own. Defeated, I purchased my morning medicine by manually opening the Passbook app and scanning the pass. 

Second Try: Semi-Permanent Fail

On the way home from work I thought I'd give it another go.  Still nothing. I opened up Maps to make sure it had a solid GPS lock, and sure enough I was right on top of the place. But wait, it knows where I am, but what if the address for Starbucks is in there incorrectly?  Sure enough, it couldn't have been more wrong. It's in the middle of a shopping area, but Apple's data shows it located on one of the streets that feed it. Heck, they even draw a little cup of coffee there! 

Reporting Bad Map Data - Being a Good iOS Citizen

In the following screen grabs, you can see the map error and the process of reporting the problem.

Blue dot: Me & Starbucks. Red pin: Where iOS 6 maps think Starbucks is.

Tap the blue arrow on the pin to bring up this screen where you can tap 'Report a Problem'

How did we screw up?

Dragged to the correct location. Now update your freakin map!

So I've done my part to get Starbucks moved to the correct location. Until Apple does something about this, nobody's Passbook is going to automatically pop up when they show up at this location. Incidentally, my house is also located wrong in Apple's maps. I've submitted pin replacements multiple times since the maps launched and it appears that the Sliech Mountain Compound is not high on their priority list.

So Does Passbook Work At All?

Still determined to have Passbook pop up automatically, I ventured over to where the address is incorrectly located on the map and... BOOM.

Eureka! But wait, where's the barcode? 

I was actually parked right at the red dot, but the GPS was off. Close enough I guess.

Swiping the notification opened up the pass, which is nice, but I was under the impression that the pass would be displayed directly on the lock screen. There's even a switch in the settings for that pass that says 'Show On Lock Screen', and of course it's switched on. Oh well.

Would Google Maps Have Gotten It Right?

Nope. I did two searches in Google's web app: One for the address listed in the Passbook pass for this particular Starbucks and another for nearby Starbucks. The exact address returned an incorrect location (across the street) while the search for a nearby Starbucks was dead on. Since Passbook calls out exact addresses, it would use Google's version of the wrong location if Google was still the map provider. In this case nobody would get it right, womp.

The exact address of Starbucks as listed in the Passbook pass. Closer than iOS 6, but still wrong.

A search for nearby Starbucks got it dead on.

This is the first time Apple's maps have deceived me. I've made a half dozen or so trips over complicated routes in Boston and elsewhere that have been very accurate and a much better experience than my crummy Garmin GPS. However, the Apple maps problems are very real, and I hope they get their act together ASAP. In the mean time, the best we can do is correct errors when we see them (and where it's even possible) and have back-up mapping apps. 

Update: 3/2/13 - Still not fixed.