Google Pass

Dear Lazyweb,

I just learned that "Google Pass" is a thing. Does anybody use this? Do I need to care about it?

I just got some spam from Google telling me that the Google Pay app is joining the Google Graveyard, and I don't care except in that this made me aware that they have finally been playing catch-up to Apple Wallet's "pkpass" infrastructure.

Making my store support Apple Wallet was a giant pain in the butt, and I don't relish doing the-same-thing-but-different for Google. Especially since it will probably be about two years before they discontinue it, as is their longstanding product policy.

The goal here is, "reduce the amount of time it takes for someone standing in front of my nightclub to wave their QR code at the door staff." On iOS, Apple Wallet supports that goal very well.

(I know that at least at some point, there existed a third-party Android app that allowed you to download and present Apple passes, but I'm sure like 5 people in the world have ever done that. Supporting an open standard for these things is, of course, not something that either company would countenance.)

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17 Responses:

  1. plumpy says:

    Anecdotally, but: I've worked at Google for 11 years now, been using Android for longer, and go to live music/theater/etc. 3 or 4 times a week, so if anyone was a prime candidate to use it it's me... and no, I never use it. It's just kinda a hassle to use and many of the tickets I buy don't support it, so if I can't have all my tickets in one place, what's the point? I probably wouldn't waste your time.

    I've never used Apple Wallet but I can only assume it's easier to use and much better supported, although it looks like AXS doesn't support Apple Wallet either?

    • jwz says:

      Well, that's a useful data point.

      I don't know how widely used Apple Wallet is with other concert venues, but it does seem to be universally supported by airlines, which is what probably gets people to be aware of it at all. And the usability is pretty good: click the attachment in the email to add it, and then it pops up on your lock screen without a password once you're within 100' of the venue in question.

      But it is absolutely software malpractice that it's not possible to tell your phone, "take this screenshot and make it be one of the things I can get to on my lock screen without unlocking first". It should just be a lock screen photo gallery. Instead it's this massive three-way upside-down crypto clusterfuck.

      It's a fair bet that AXS's real reason is not "Apple Wallet doesn't do what we need" but rather "we are better able to surveil and monetize you if you've installed our app." To be fair, I only make that assumption about them because they are literally the devil.

      • James C. says:

        It should just be a lock screen photo gallery. Instead it's this massive three-way upside-down crypto clusterfuck.

        Clearly the solution is to implement a blockchain for things on everyone’s lock screen. It could be a kind of social media system where people could share lock screen content with each other using a special blockchain-based web 3 API.

      • Baggypants says:

        I always bunged the relevent ticket app into Guided Access / Pinned mode when I got near whatever I needed to use it for. Oh and turn off screen rotate because you don't want that QR code spinning around in front of the reader.

      • honkerdown. says:

        Isn't this the exact opposite of what you desire for vaccination verification? 🤷

        But it is absolutely software malpractice that it's not possible to tell your phone, "take this screenshot and make it be one of the things I can get to on my lock screen without unlocking first". It should just be a lock screen photo gallery. Instead it's this massive three-way upside-down crypto clusterfuck.

        • jwz says:

          No, because the QR code is itself cryptographically secure. It doesn't matter how it is transported. Vaccination QR codes printed on paper are equally secure, or re-drawn with crayon if you were so motivated.

      • Chris says:

        I've saved a few things to Google Pay's wallet: boarding passes and store loyalty cards.
        The plus is that if the thing you save has a timestamp on it then you get a notification at the appropriate time, making it slightly more convenient to find. It also works in airplane mode, which inconveniently most airline apps do not manage.
        Cons: You still have to unlock the phone. You still have to find the notification. It's hard to delete old things you no longer need. It's equally hard to find things that didn't automatically appear due to the timestamps. Google also keeps redesigning the app, so there's that. Now it's called GPay.
        Assuming I have internet access, it's equally fast to find an email as it is to find a pass.

        • Andrew Klossner says:

          Google Wallet is just the new name for the older Google Pay app. It keeps credit cards and boarding passes and lets you "tap to pay" via NFC. GPay is a larger money management and advertising app, one of whose four buttons just runs Wallet. I don't know how Google could have made this any more confusing.

          • Chris says:

            That was unnecessarily confusing. Thanks for the advice!
            I had only GPay on my phone. Searching "Google Wallet" on the Play store prominently suggests Google Pay, which it thinks is already installed and opens GPay on the phone.
            Scrolling down a little further in the store, there's Google Wallet. That seems to have everything I want, nothing I don't. Maybe this will be more pleasant.

            Who'd have thought that Google would guide a user towards something more featured and less useful.

            I would probably want event tickets in this app. I also probably would not be too disappointed if this was not possible.

  2. Jay says:

    For what is worth, my user experience:

    I had never heard of Wallet (or Google's version of the technology) until my last trip (first in almost 3 years) a couple of weeks ago. The NHS (UK) provided my "COVID Pass Travel" as one of the Google Pay things, and it created a nice little icon in my screen that I can click to show the pass. Extremely convenient and kind of transparent, since I'm using Android. The NHS app did this automatically, I didn't even know what was going on (at that point I hadn't heard of Apple Wallet or any other "pass" tech), the icon just popped up in my screen when I requested my pass.

    The railway company, on the other hand, sent me my ticket in this mysterious "Passbook" format that I had never heard of, and I had to spend about hour trying to figure out what the heck it was and how to open it (the answer I found was WalletPasses, for those wondering). Once installed, it allowed me to download the pkpass and show it, very easily. A bit less convenient, but understandable since it's an Apple thing.

    My take away is that the idea, from the user's perspective, is great. I get offline access to my tickets in my phone, in a very easy and convenient way. The implementation, on the other hand, should be criminalized. Why do we even need specific apps for this? This should be an open standard that any OS can support, out of the box, in any way they decide. I would have thought that, by now, we could collectively agree on the need for building more common infrastructure and fewer proprietary pseudo-standards.

    Rant aside, what you're probably interested in: if you already went through the trouble of supporting Apple Wallet, the Android app does work alright, I don't think you need to support Google's as well (although it does look nicer in Android phones). In the long term, I hope both die and we get an open standard, but I'm not holding my breath for that...

  3. Nick Lamb says:

    Yesterday (or maybe Wednesday? Days blur, I took July off work because it's always too hot and even on a video call clothes are mandatory) my Android phone told me that it would replace Google Pay with Google Wallet. It said this would happen "in the next few days".

    Today, in fact, literally as your blog loaded on my desktop, the phone announced it had indeed replaced Google Pay with Google Wallet, and the new Wallet app said to me:

    "Automatically add passes to Wallet from Gmail: Make sure that 'Smart features and personalisation in other Google products' is on in Gmail settings"

    and then it links to the settings of the phone's Gmail app, but it does genuinely mean that you need to give Google permission to look at your email, which makes sense as if they're not looking at your email they can't see if it's a pass to some gig or an airline ticket or whatever.

    As I understand it, any Google Pay passes actually survived this re-brand, previously they were a weird adjunct to an app that's mostly to turn my phone into a contactless credit card (which I use all the time, in fact I deliberately ask for cards with their own contactless disabled, so that all contactless transactions were done by the phone, which has like actual cryptographic security designed by people who have some idea what they're doing, unlike a credit card, but I digress...) and now these passes are like equal citizens with credit cards in the Wallet. So arguably the rebrand makes sense? Maybe?

    Is it worth your bother? I have no idea what fraction of your customers use Android, or what fraction of your iPhone customers even use your pass feature. I'd be astonished if it's actually worth the time you probably expend to write custom code for all this, but on the other hand, you watched The Crow 2 again, so what is your time really worth to you?

    But hey, in speaking of wasting your time, how is the tweak I recommended standing the test of time for the Apple nonsense?

  4. Michael V. says:

    I don't know about for ticketing, but getting my Covid card on Google Wallet was not too tough. The hardest part was getting into my state's website. (Which is a pain, admittedly.)

  5. mato says:

    FWIW since I got dragged kicking and screaming into the modern smartphone world, I went looking for an ad-free and usable Android app that does pkpass and found  Yourwallet (, have been very happy with it thus far.

  6. jwz says:

    In case anyone was wondering:

    • 25% of our ticket holders choose to present a QR code at the door.
    • 76% of those are via Apple Wallet, 23% are from the email or web site.
    • Nick Lamb says:

      That's actually a lot more than I expected showing QR codes. However I'd guess that implementing the Google thing would mostly just shift some of the email/ web site people rather than growing the QR code numbers overall.

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