Red hot mobile payment service Square has taken a major move forward after it introduced gift cards to its iOS app, which has integrated Apple’s Passbook payment feature to encourage pre-Christmas spending.

Square’s consumer app — Square Wallet — has been updated with the changes, while its application for merchants has got Passbook integration — allowing retailers to redeem gift cards on the Apple technology — as well as support for printed QR codes, and the iPhone 5.

Update: The updates were made without an official announcement but founder Jack Dorsey has now revealed the news, via Twitter — the other significant startup he started– of course.

Here are the finer details:

Square Wallet 2.5 (for consumers)

Gift cards, just in time for the holidays! Square Gift Cards are the easiest way to send a personalized gift to anyone, anywhere in the United States.

Square Register 2.5 (for merchants)

Accept gift cards for your business from Square Wallet, Passbook and printed QR codes.
iPhone 5 support and various improvements.

square gc 730x409 Square integrates Apples Passbook and introduces gift cards for iOS app users

The updates are hugely significant, and have the potential to increase the $10 billion in annual payments that Square is processing — a figure that grew by $2 billion between September and November alone.

The new support gives businesses more options to help build better promotional campaigns and appeal to users to new ways. For example, coming in the run-up to Christmas, Starbucks lovers could be treated to Square gift cards via Passbook, which would give them credit for the coffee store and any of the other merchants that support Square. Likewise, a campaign using printed QR code discounts could be used, which could be an interesting option.

For example, Dorsey bought a $30 gift card for his father.

 

Most interesting, however, is the integration of Passbook. Seen by many as competition in the mobile payment space, Square is leveraging the technology to give Apple device owners an easy way to give and receive gifts. Passbook — which is integrated into Apple’s iOS 6 — has real potential as a layer to connect different services and features through one interface.

Passbook’s real strength, and this is a key one for the industry, is its sheer scale. The fact that every owner of an iOS 6-powered device now has Passbook gives it enormous potential to raise awareness and understanding of mobile payments and, for that reason alone, Square needs to be involved, irrespective of what future turns and services Apple may later introduce.

TNW’s own Matthew Panzarino discussed Passbook’s potential for Square back in June — ‘Apple’s Passbook, payments and the power of trust‘ — when he noted:

The fact of the matter is that people, by and large, are not ready for mobile payments. I’m probably not even ready and I’m an early adopter. This is why other technologies like NFC haven’t taken off for Google or other mobile makers that have tried to make it happen.

There is a trust threshold that hasn’t yet been breached by any major company, although services like Square are making headway. Apple is uniquely positioned to take its current cachet with regards to credit cards and build on that through the redemption of passes and gift cards through Passbook. Once it has this kind of trust, it can use NFC hardware in a future phone to further expand its payment options.

The beauty of it is that this kind of system doesn’t even preclude companies like Square taking advantage of Passbook. Although it has its own app, it could just as easily offer a ‘Square’ card inside Passbook or allow stores to redeem codes from a Passbook pass.

This year has been a huge one for Square. The company closed its $200 million Series D round, which included a $25 million investment from Starbucks. The coffee chain introduced the joint payments system at an initial 7,000 coffee shops across the US last month.

The company’s achievements were recognized by American Banker, as the magazine named founder Dorsey its innovator of the year.

You can grab the updated apps at the link below. At the time of writing, Square’s Android apps have not been updated, but we’ve reached out to the company to see when the changes will make their way over.

Square Wallet | Square Register

Related: The MLB and Tickets.com bank on Apple’s Passbook to boost nascent mobile ticketing market

Headline image via Square

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