Bad news for fans of credit card replacement gadget Coin. Today Coin revealed that those who pre-ordered the device will have to wait a bit longer before getting their hands on one.
But while finished product isn’t going to be here as soon as we’d hoped, according to Coin CEO Kanish Parashar there are lots of good reasons for the delay. Citing the steep learning curve associated with bringing the 30-year-old traditional credit card tech ecosystem into the digital era, the Coin team needs additional time to deliver a polished product. That said, the company is expanding its current beta testing program from a 1,000 users to more than 10,000 — all of which will be backers who opt-in.
Coin wants to up-end the existing magnetic strip-based payment market by distributing their sleek hardware — a black, credit card-shaped device that can replace up to six credit, debit, gift, or membership cards. Users first upload credit card details to Coin’s forthcoming mobile apps, then pair the Coin card with their iPhone or Android device. After that, leave the big wallet at home. There’s no need to carry that Banana Republic, Macy’s, or Victoria Secret card around anymore because it’s already in your pocket on Coin.
Coin’s backers, who paid $50 last fall to pre-order the pocket-sized gadget, will receive official word today about the status of the device, and be able to register. With the arrival of iOS and Android mobile apps in August and September, backers will be asked if they want to enter into the expanded beta program, which would allow them to get their hands on the beta version of the device by late October or early November. They’ll also have a chance to grab the finished product when it launches in the spring of 2015.
“Building Coin properly isn’t easy,” Parashar told VentureBeat. “Without anything else like it existing in the marketplace, there were times when we had to go it alone.”
Parashar explained that to produce a digital gadget that behaved like a traditional analogue credit card, the Coin team had to convince its supply chain manufacturers to fabricate custom parts for the device — often to precise specifications. One such instance is the extremely tiny (yet reliable) Bluetooth low-energy radio tech that powers the all-too-important communication between the Coin card and a smartphone “Getting the device from 2mm to 1mm was OK.” he added. “Getting it from 1mm down to .84mm presented challenges.”
In other instances, Coin was forced to invent new technologies like the digital strip that allows Coin to mimic the credit cards that users sync to it.
Coin’s key differentiator from systems like Google Wallet and Starbuck’s mobile payment app is that once the user inputs a card’s information on Coin, their phone is no longer necessary for the transaction. Coin looks, feels and behaves like a credit card, and its miniature lithium battery allows it to function completely autonomously for up to two years. If your phone’s dead at the end of the night, that fact isn’t going to get in the way of your ability to purchase anything you would normally buy with plastic.
So where does this leave Coin’s backers? The company is offering three different options:
- Option 1: opt into the beta program. This option land users a Coin Beta device in October/November which they’ll use and provide feedback for until spring of 2015. When the final Coin product is released in Spring 2015, these users will be able to pick one up for $30 or 70 percent less than the retail purchase price. It’s important to note that despite the discount, this brings the total cost for anyone who wants to be a Coin Beta user as well as a first-gen owner up from $50 to $80. In effect, these users are paying $30 for the privilege of helping to building a better Coin while having fairly exclusive access to some cutting-edge technology that’s likely to leave heads turning wherever you use it. Still, it’s understandable why this perk isn’t for everyone.
- Option 2: wait until the final version is launched. To properly incorporate the feedback from the Coin Beta program, the final Coin Product will launch some time in spring of 2015. Backers who don’t opt in to the Coin beta program will automatically land on this list.
- Option 3: get a refund. While there’s no specific link to click in order to fulfill this option, heading over to the Coin website and writing in to their customer care staff via the information on the Contact Us page should set these users up for a credit refunded to the payment method that they used to back Coin. Facebook posts on the official Coin Facebook page indicate that this process should take about 10 business days.
Right now there are only 10,000 slots that will be offered to users according to how soon they pre-ordered a Coin card. However, Parashar hinted that the company may expand the number of beta testers in the program based on demand.
Today’s communication from Coin allows allows backers to register their pre-ordered Coin device (or devices), which is mandatory for the system to work. Unlike pre-ordering a smartphone or another embedded electronic device like a FitBit, each Coin card is actually mated directly to the user’s account before it ships and contains a unique identifier. This tactic deters theft since thieves will need access to not only the Coin card, but the login of the owner before being able to re-sync new cards to the device.
Right now, there’s little reason for backers to be afraid that the final product won’t come to pass. While the video of an early Coin device released in May is available for anyone to watch, Parashar hopped on Skype yesterday afternoon to give us a glimpse of the current beta model. Parashar wasn’t in a position to swipe the device out in the wild (he was stuck in an airport lounge), but it was easy to see that progress had been made in the app interface, synching, and security/code interface. Coin’s also announced availability for the digital card’s iPhone and Android companion apps, which drop on August 28th and September 25th respectively. In addition to users being able to add credit cards in anticipation of the upcoming device, the apps are the only way to opt into the Coin Beta program. Finally, Coin’s team was excited to talk about their encryption schemes and other enhancements. They’re determined to produce this device. The beta, Coin stressed, was focused on field testing and refinement.
“We’ve got a rainbow of skills,” the founder and CEO mused about the range of talent on his team and the value of this expanded beta. “Coin beta will allow us to create the best experience for the final product.”
Whether or not the finalized product is everything Parashar says it will be, there are thousands of anxious backers who can’t wait to find out for themselves.