Coin is not the future. This is important to make clear right off the bat. The future of payments will look much more like Apple Pay than it does Coin. In the digital age, there is no reason we should still have to carry paper money or plastic credit cards in the United States. We do it because we have to; the government is behind the times and banks are behind the times.
Paper money and plastic credit cards will not exist in the future. Sadly, it maybe be decades before that future is truly realized.
In the meantime, smartphone and wearable-based payment solutions like Apple Pay are in their infancy in America. They’re wonderful and secure options at the small number of retailers where they are accepted, but they cannot replace any of the credit cards in your wallet, let alone all of them. Good luck buying dinner at a restaurant or getting cash from an ATM with Apple Pay.
This is where Coin comes into play.
Right now, for me personally, Apple Pay is next to useless.
Apple Pay is beyond promising and I believe a future version of Apple’s payments solution will be among a precious few offerings that not only survive, but thrive. Today, however, Apple Pay accepted in about one-tenth of the places I shop.
Coin, on the other hand, will work almost everywhere I shop.
San Francisco-based Coin is one of a handful of startups looking to replace all of the credit cards in your wallet with a single smart card. That one card stores all of the swipe data from each of your credit and debit card accounts, and you can pick which card to pay with using on-device controls.
It looks like a credit card and it acts like a credit card, but it’s so much more.
Coin has had a rocky start thus far. It was supposed to launch this past summer after a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, but it later said the launch would be delayed. The company is just now beginning to send out pre-release cards to a small percentage of users who applied for its beta program, and the final version will not be released until sometime next year.
I received a beta version of Coin earlier this week, and I plan to use it exclusively moving forward.
The setup process is very simple with Coin. The accompanying iOS app is used to store all of the data from your credit cards and to transfer that data to the Coin, which can hold up to eight cards at a time. Card data can be entered manually or you can connect the card reader that comes in the box to your phone and swipe your old cards.
For security, a small temporary charge is made on each card you add, and you need to verify the amount of the charge before you can begin using the card.
The app itself needs some work. For one thing, this iPhone-only software doesn’t even support Touch ID yet for security. Instead, it uses a horrible morse code-like tap pattern that requires the user to make six consecutive taps of varying durations in order to unlock the app.
Even a regular PIN would be better, but at least there is a method to the madness: The Coin itself features just a single button for operation, and a similar six-tap code can be enabled so that the Coin cannot be used unless that tap code is entered first.
Beyond the tap code security, the button on the Coin is also used to wake the device and to cycle through the various cards stored on the Coin. The last four digits, card type and expiration date for each card is displayed on a small E Ink display as you cycle through the cards. Once you stop, the chosen card will remain the default account on the Coin until you change it again.
It’s still very early days for me, but I like the Coin so far. Truth be told, however, it’s doing more to get me excited about the upcoming Plastc card than anything else. Plastc, as you might recall, is a similar product that will add chip and PIN support, a touchscreen, reward card support, membership card support and a wirelessly rechargeable battery to the equation.
Wireless charging and chip and PIN support are the two boxes I’d really like to see checked on the Coin. I don’t carry rewards cards, opting instead to just give stores my phone number, but right now Coin is not ready for the more secure chip and PIN system, and it must be replaced when the battery dies after about two years.
For now, however, Coin has allowed be to ditch my wallet. Aside from a driver’s license, all I need to carry is my Coin, which is sitting snugly in my iPhone 6 wallet case, as pictured above. I’ll post updates in the coming weeks and months covering my experiences with Coin.