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Like Coffee and Donuts, Starbucks and Passbook in iOS 6 are Delicious Together



I make a Starbucks run once a week, plus an occasional weekend stop, and fortunately this week’s run landed on the morning after Starbucks updated their iOS app with Passbook support. Let me tell you, as convenient as the app is, it’s got nothing on Passbook.

How it went down

After installing the update last night and going through the Passbook settings, I stopped at one of the three Starbucks locations on my way to work (keep in mind, my commute is about ten minutes) and was greeted with this notification on my iPhone’s lock screen.


Lock screen with Starbucks pass notification shown. Cat background assembled with Diptic and Tiny Post

No need to unlock then tap the app or Passbook. No need to say “Starbucks” or “Passbook” to Siri. Just arrive at the Starbucks and unlock directly to the pass, which looks like this…


Starbucks pass. The pass on your screen will show the actual barcode and dollar value.

Fun feature: as it does in the app, the Starbucks pass uses the graphic from the physical card associated with the account. I use a gift card from my mom as my primary, but this can be changed by adding a new card to the app then adding it to Passbook.

Making a pass

After being updated, the Starbucks app gave me a one-time prompt to add a card to Passbook when I launched it. But adding cards to Passbook can be done anytime. Just tap on Manage in the card view and then Add Card to Passbook.


Card management options in Starbucks app.

Also in the Starbucks app, if you want the Passbook notification to pop up when you reach a store location, you’ll need to “star” locations as favorites. Up to ten are allowed, which may be a problem for urban dwellers. I live in a suburban forest and am in range of ten locations. For any other locations, you’ll need to launch the Passbook manually (or verbally).


Map in Starbucks app. Stars indicate favorites.

Additional setting are located in the pass itself. You can choose whether it receives automatic updates or shows on the lock screen. It states the lock screen setting can be based on time or location, but in this case, it’s based only on location with the trigger favorites listed below. The pass can be “shredded” from here. If you trash it accidentally, it can always be recreated from the app.


Starbucks pass settings in Passbook

Unlike the app, there is no separate passcode setting in the pass. Security depends on your iPhone lock settings. However, you cannot add value to the pass from the pass; this must be done through the app (so definitely passcode protect that). Still, spending your Starbucks balance is hardly the worst thing someone can do if they snatch your unlocked iPhone.

After the initial setup process, it isn’t necessary to go back and forth between the pass and the app very often. The app is only needed to manage favorite stores and add value to the card (and Starbucks offers other ways to add value to a card too). If your card has value, the pass works straight from Passbook.

Prior to this update, I’d been getting used to launching the Starbucks app through Siri, but I admit, skipping even that little bit of effort is surprisingly convenient. And for any location outside my favorites, my only extra step is to say “Passbook” first. For me, the experience couldn’t be easier. This is how Passbook passes should work.



  1. Ralph

    10/04/2012 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for the review.

    Could you please indicate what settings are needed to make the Starbucks notification appear on the lock screen? The Show on Lock Screen setting is switched on, and I designated my favorite local stores in the app, but I went to one today, nothing appeared on my lock screen (paying with Passbook and updating the balance occurred flawlessly).

    I could not find any location service settings for Passbook, so I assume it is always switched on. Just in case, I also switched on location services for the Starbucks app itself, although I think that the Passbook app itself holds the coordinates for all favorite stores.

    Do you have an idea how wide the geo-fence is around the stores?

    • Sumocat

      10/05/2012 at 7:08 am

      Sounds like it should work, but there are actually quite a few moving parts that can throw the train off the rails.

      Location Services are in the Privacy section of Settings in iOS. There’s a general on switch and a specific one for Passbook. Both need to be on.

      Then, there’s the Notifications area of Setting in iOS. Passbook needs to be turned on here with the alert style set to Banners or Alerts and “View in Lock Screen” needs to be turned on. Between these and the settings in the pass, it should be enabled. Another potential obstacle is if you have Wi-Fi turned off, which is important for location tracking.

      As for geo-fencing, yesterday, I checked my phone about 50 feet from the door and the notice was there. It was also there when I was at a different store in the same shopping center, at least a couple hundred feet away. Will definitely be there before you reach the register.

  2. Passdock

    10/05/2012 at 3:45 am

    Nice review! Would you take a look also at It’s a simple and intuitive web application that allows you to design, manage, delivery and update passes for iOS Passbook app, such as coupons, store cards, event tickets and boarding passes, and helps to better understand Passbook features and potential.

  3. Ralph

    10/05/2012 at 6:54 am

    I found out. The reason was that I had put restrictions on apps to add or change location services, which prevented Passbook from even appearing in the list of apps. After I disabled the restrictions, Passbook asked for permission to access, which I granted. Now Passbook works with location awareness.

    The geo-fence seems to be about 500 feet.

  4. Ralph

    10/05/2012 at 7:28 am

    Thanks. Notifications will notify you when there is an update to the card, for example, the balance after you paid or recharged. Switching off notifications for Passbook still show the Passbook card itself in the lock screen.

    By the way, I think this is one of the most accessible implementations so far of Passbook, a 30% off coupon for Odeon cinemas (UK): Just click on the link, and download the card to Passbook. No need for any apps. I hope other companies will take note of this.

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