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iTunes Pass lets you add money to your account in Apple stores

The new feature taps into Apple's Passbook app but is available only in Japan, at least for now.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Apple has unveiled a new feature in Japan that lets you use Passbook to deposit money in your iTunes account at an Apple retail store.

Dubbed iTunes Pass, the feature lets you buy credit good for purchases in iTunes, the App Store, or the iBookstore directly through your friendly, neighborhood Apple store, according to 9to5Mac. A store employee simply scans the code generated by iTunes Pass to process your payment. The money you deposit is then immediately available for you to spend.

The goal behind the new feature seems to be to use Passbook to eliminate the need to buy physical gift cards, use a credit or debit card, or keep track of redemption codes to buy your favorite App Store and iTunes items. The feature is also likely the next step in Apple's slow but growing evolution in the world of mobile payments. Apple took its first baby steps in mobile payments in 2012 with its Passbook app but hasn't done a great deal since then to expand the technology.

The feature could also be part of an initial step in an iTunes-based mobile payments service. Apple is reportedly prepping such a service that would tie in with Passbook and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, sources have told 9to5Mac.

iTunes Pass is available just in Japan right now. Here's how it works, at least based on the rough translation of Apple's Japanese iTunes Pass webpage:

Use the iTunes Pass, you can now deposit directly to the account of the App Store or iTunes Store you. Go to the iTunes Store in the iOS device you have, if you tap "Use iTunes Card / Code" button and scroll down, you can get the iTunes Pass. Please tell specialist that then, the Apple Store near you, you want to deposit into account. When you open the iTunes Pass from the Passbook, specialists will scan it, and accepts the payment. Balance is updated on the fly, available immediately.

Why is the feature accessible only in Japan? Apple may simply be testing it in a single region before rolling it out globally. CNET contacted Apple for comment and will update the story with any further details.