The physical gift card may soon be a thing of the past if Apple has anything to do with it. The company has rolled out a new service in Japan called iTunes Pass (a different iTunes Pass) in which customers can go to an Apple Store, purchase credits and have them immediately applied to their Apple ID through the iOS Passbook app.
Upon arriving at an Apple Store, an employee will scan a code within the Passbook app to facilitate payment and deposit. Once credits have been purchased and applied, customers can then make purchases in the iTunes Store, App Store and through the iBookstore app.
It's unclear exactly why Apple chose Japan as the test bed for the new feature. One possible explanation is the fact that there are very few Apple retail stores in the country, a fact that'll no doubt make it easier for them to gauge user interest.
Store credit aside, it's entirely possible that Apple may simply be testing this in preparation for something bigger. The Cupertino-based company has been slow to jump on the mobile payments bandwagon but perhaps they're preparing to have the program accepted at other retailers in an effort to make Passbook the go-to mobile wallet app.
Passbook first debuted in 2012 as part of iOS 6 but aside from a handful of services, Apple really hasn't pushed the service much.