Coin Talks Dead Phones and Lost Cards, Keeps the Pre-Orders Rolling

Some concerns with the buzzed-about smart card remain.

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I suspected Coin was onto something when my real-world friends started asking me about it. People have fat wallets, and the idea of consolidating your credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards into a single smart card certainly has non-geek appeal.

But as I wrote last week, there are a few reasons to be skeptical about Coin’s execution, largely because of security implications and the practical concerns of tethering your credit card to a smartphone. Now, Coin is trying to allay some of those worries with additional information on how the device works.

Here’s a rundown of the issues that Coin is hoping to address:

  • Previously, Coin said the card would auto-lock if it became separated from your phone “after a period of time,” thereby preventing someone else from using it. The company now says that the card locks automatically at the same time that it notifies you about being left behind.
  • You can still use Coin if your phone is off or in landscape mode, even if the card’s auto-lock timer runs out. The company tells me you can set up a Morse code-style button sequence on the card, which lets you make payments without a connection to your phone.
  • There’ve been some questions about whether Coin will cause problems with credit card companies and merchants. Coin says it is “building relationships with major card providers and merchants and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Some concerns still remain. You’d still be trusting all your payment details to a small startup (though Coin promises it will encrypt users’ payment data), and the card must still be replaced roughly once every two years when its internal battery runs out. At $100 per card, it’s a high price for added convenience.

But Coin says it’s been overwhelmed by the response so far. The company is taking pre-orders through its website, but is charging buyers up-front and referring to the pre-sales as a “crowdfunding campaign,” which met its $50,000 fundraising goal in 40 minutes. Coin claims that it’s on pace to be the most successful hardware crowdfunding campaign of all time (putting it ahead of the Pebble smartwatch), and will continue to sell cards for $50 each for the next 24 days. After that, the price goes back to $100.

The launch date for Coin is scheduled for next summer, but if this truly is a crowdfunding campaign, we can pretty much assume it’s going to be delayed.

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