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Nearly two years ago, Apple hailed its new Passbook app as the future of mobile payments. Following the hype, the app — a digital wallet for things like plane tickets, coupons, and store cards — was criticized for its underwhelming impact.

Core to these missed expectations is the seemingly limited number of businesses that actually integrate with Passbook. Unless Passbook support becomes enormously widespread, why should users care about it?

Today, Outspoken says it’s cracked the code to making Passbook useful. The solution, the company claims, is to build Passbook into a 20-year-old, ubiquitous technology: text messaging.

Outspoken, which offers marketing services for brands via SMS and MMS, today launched a service that allows brands to deliver Passbook passes (vouchers, tickets, or coupons, generally speaking) to customers via text. Delivering Passbook passes outside of an app isn’t ground breaking (Apple’s API supports it), but Outspoken claims it’s the first company to ever deliver passes by text.

Text messaging isn’t sexy, but it’s incredibly easy to use and still an important target for brands.

Outspoken president James Citron claims, “One out of six Americans gets a text message from [Outspoken’s] platform per month. That means bank alerts, boarding passes, and mobile coupons.”

Citron says these messages should have built-in Passbook support.

For users, Passbook passes delivered via text look just like an image of a Passbook card [above], thanks to the way Apple renders Passbook pass files (a .pk file). Once you click on the image, it opens up the actual pass within Passbook, where it then lives.

Passes need to be delivered via MMS, not SMS, for this to work.

Making the integration more enticing, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 now supports Passbook passes, too. There are also third-party apps on Android that support Passbook passes.

Passbook files can be delivered in numerous ways, from mobile websites to native apps, but the simplicity of text messaging may be the secret to getting tech-shy brands and users interested in Passbook’s potential. The only surprising thing is that no one has tried this before.

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