First look: Coin 'smart' iOS-connected credit card

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2015
After monumental delays, the Coin "smart" credit card finally started shipping out to customers in April, offering users the flexibility of carrying up to eight swipeable credit, debit a rewards cards that -- for now -- are accepted at more locations than touchless NFC solutions like Apple Pay.




The first thing we noticed out of the box is Coin's strikingly thin profile. Coin, the company, managed to stuff an e-ink display, Bluetooth radio, functional electronics and a battery good for two years of normal use into a chassis no thicker than a traditional credit card.

As AppleInsider reported when Coin was announced in 2013, the device replaces multiple swipe-based cards by storing account information and outputting card data to point of sale terminals via a dynamically programmable magstripe. Current models don't support chip-and-pin security and lack the necessary NFC modules for contactless payments, but with near universal acceptance of swipe-to-pay POS systems, Coin's form factor is currently more flexible. That is if it works as advertised.




Setup is fairly straightforward, though we did run into some problems swiping in new cards. Pairing is completed by first registering through Coin's website, downloading and logging in through Coin's app, then authenticating and linking your unique card to an iPhone on first sync. Coin itself is personalized to each user and comes with your name etched on the back and an area for signature entry.

Using Coin's iOS app and the provided magstripe reader dongle, we were able to load up our most-used cards with relative ease. Coin's dongle hardware is similar to Square's product in that it uses iPhone's headphone jack as an interface. Like older Square models, Coin's reader stores its magnetic bits in one side of the housing, meaning cards must be facing a certain direction when swiped.




Some credit cards require authorization before being provisioned for use, a simple process of tapping in the CVV number located on the card's back, which is then cross-checked against data on a given provider's network. Our debit cards also needed to be authenticated by providing a correct PIN. We did have trouble with one pesky credit card that refused to cooperate with Coin's reader even after multiple swipes at different speeds. In that case, we resorted to punching in our details manually.

Tapping "Sync Coin" in the iOS app brings up a list of stored cards available for transfer (up to eight), as well as options for "Lock and Find" and changing your tap code, a unique six-tap Morse code-like sequence entered upon initial setup. "Lock and Find" is Coin's security option that uses an iPhone's Bluetooth and GPS capabilities to keep tabs of where and when Coin was last seen. The feature also uses BLE proximity features to alert users when they leave a card behind. Total card information and device settings transfer time clocked in at around ten seconds.




As long as a host iPhone is within Bluetooth range, Coin automatically unlocks when its lone button is depressed. Alternatively, the device can be unlocked using your tap code, though we found this method unreliable. A tactile click should be felt each time the button is pressed, though the mechanic was inconsistent and at times "mushy" on our unit. Luckily, a small green LED located just to the left of the button offers a secondary indication that inputs are being recognized.


Coin's green LED indicator is just barely visible.


Once unlocked, users are able to cycle through stored cards, identified by their abbreviated name (MC for Mastercard, VISA for Visa) and the last four digits and expiration date. Coin can be used at practically any magnetic card reading terminal, including ATMs. After use, the card automatically locks and powers down, monitoring for Bluetooth wake signals from a host iPhone.

We have yet to test Coin in the wild, but are anxious to do so since a majority of retailers in our small town do not accept Apple Pay. Touchless NFC payments are starting to see wider adoption thanks in large part to efforts from tech companies like Apple and Google, but swipeable cards are for now the de facto form of credit and debit payments. Here, at least, traditional cards are unquestionably the most accepted option.

In the U.S., EMV chip-and-pin systems will roll out in October, making current Coin models useless. However, POS terminals must be upgraded before that happens, so Coin has some time before becoming completely obsolete.

Those interested can preorder Coin through the company's website for $100.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    ialanialan Posts: 3member
    Coin is deader than dead.

    The only thing they have left is their fancy twitter username.
  • Reply 2 of 36
    roakeroake Posts: 563member
    I initially ordered one of these at the pre-order price of $50. At that time, the delay before it was to ship was a year, which is pretty long to trust someone with your money when they are just selling (at the time), vaporware.

    Then, as that time-frame was was closing, we suddenly got emails out of the blue stating sorry, but it will be another year. However, we were offered the "opportunity" to beta-test the product at OUR expense. There was immediate pushback from the community, and the beta-test was significantly narrowed in scope to a few thousand people, but became free as a result of the outrage of their customers.

    Once actual users (beta-testers) had cards in their hands, trying them in the real-world, it became apparent that there were numerous unrelated problems with the technology. Only about 85% of attempted transactions worked. Progress in correcting these issues moved very slowly, mostly being blamed on old readers that were somehow incompatible with the Coin. Meanwhile, it was announced that the U.S. would switch to chip & pin technology, like in Europe and other areas of the world.

    This is where I bailed. At least, they gave me a refund a year and a half after I essentially gave them an interest-free loan. No questions asked. That was nice.

    My reasoning was this: why invest in technology that is obsolete before it ships? Sure, it's kinda neat, but I KNOW it won't last. It can't! But it would probably be good for a few years, you might think, because it will take a long time for merchants to switch terminal technology, and you would be right - at least at the terminals that already support it. But there is a reason for the switch: security. This card claims to be "secure" (in that it's hard to hack), but it still hands over the info to a terminal just like any other magnetic card. Another is battery life. When the battery dies, the solution is buying a new card. This works out to significant annual credit-card-associated fees with no net gain.

    Obsolescence prior to shipping and the 10-15% of terminals that refused transactions from this card were the primary reasons I bailed. What is the point of having this card if I still have to carry the plastic to make sure I can pay for dinner? Sure, Coin gets me some nerd points (as if I needed them), but it ADDS a card to what I carry, which entirely defeats the point of it existing. And those merchants with out-of-date terminals that do not support Coin... If those merchants upgrade, it's only because they are forced to, and that will be to Chip + PIN technology. I know that Coin will still initially work with these, but once it reaches critical mass, and there is some high profile data theft, merchants will start to disable support for the old plastic (and Coin).

    This company had a great idea, but several years too late to make it really work. It's unfortunate, but I see the front door to the company as a coffin-lid.

    Obviously, this is just my opinion; I can see how other people might feel differently. But I can say now that I still feel that I made a good decision in getting my money back.
  • Reply 3 of 36
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,587member
    Um... no Amex?
  • Reply 4 of 36
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,063member

    While I think Apple Pay (and somewhat similar systems like Google's when ignoring their disrespect for privacy) are the better solution, it remains to be seen how many hurdles and nonsense banks and payment providers will put up in each country. Pretty much every decent payment idea in Germany has been virtually destroyed by only ever covering a small fraction of the market, while competitors and their alliances provided systems that are nothing but copies (or worse) with the goal of avoiding wide acceptance for anything. The crap with the artificial 20 Pound limit in the UK is IMHO exactly the same thing. Yeah, you can have a little, but we prefer to keep the meaty transactions ourselves...

     

    Coin (if it does work) could still be a good solution for all these markets, as they have one advantage. They don't take business away from anybody and parties with different interests can't easily stop it. And as long as my iPhone or Apple Watch does not allow me to leave my original credit card at home, Coin does provide more security.

  • Reply 5 of 36
    roakeroake Posts: 563member
    Just for giggles, I clicked the link to their website.. Not much change from a year ago, including...

    Why do they still say they are taking "pre-orders" if this has been shipping mainstream for a month?
  • Reply 6 of 36
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,022member

    This seemed like too-good-to-be-true vaporware when I saw the vid. I knew it would takes ages to actually launch, and when it did, the landscape would be different. Cool idea, cool technology, but just too convoluted and late to the game. 

  • Reply 7 of 36
    Probably should've waited til you guys actually used it in the "real world" before you posted this article as this article actually makes it sound pretty cool.

    I've had a few friends get their's for the beta (I bailed and asked for a refund after all their delays) and they're sorry they didn't ask for a refund when they could've. It works fine...until it doesn't. And when it doesn't, you need your backup (aka -- your real!) card. So it actually doesn't get rid of of all your cards unless you're fine with it not working sometimes.

    Also, it doesn't work with store cards at all for some reason. So you can't put your Target, Macy's, etc. cards that aren't Visa/Amex/MC.

    AND, if you have more than one Visa, Amex, or MC you want to store on the card, you better know the last four of them, because you can't change the name of the card. It can only show "VISA/AMEX/MC" on the screen rather than a name of your choosing.
  • Reply 8 of 36
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,292member

    I was an original Coin beta tester and now have the actual Coin (same thing, just a new card).  I can tell you that we love it.  It allows us to take just one card.  The only trouble (and the reason why things took so long to launch) is understanding what terminals it doesn't work at.  There are just some old machines out there that don't like the Coin.  I can tell which ones probably won't.  But I can also say that 90% or more of the places we use it, it works great.

     

    People are saying that it's dead on arrival. I don't think so. There are still lots of places that don't accept Apple Pay and loyalty cards aren't in Apple Pay yet either.  Is that a preferred method of payment, probably. But for everything else you can use the Coin.

     

    The other feature that is often overlooked is security. We've had our personal and business credit card stolen on average once a year.  With Coin, the credit card number is not printed and it locks if it's not near your phone, etc.  So there are built in safety measures that other credit cards don't have.

     

    So I wouldn't foo foo them just yet.  They did actually launch to beta members BEFORE Apple Pay, but wanted to make sure that it worked for most people.

  • Reply 9 of 36
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,292member

    Yes, being able to change the name of the card would be a good firmware update.

     

    I don't think it's a problem with the card, but with the readers.  I've found they don't work on older readers used by a number of restaurants, but it does work on newer readers.

  • Reply 10 of 36
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 587member
    I would never setup "Pre-orders" for any company I created. Pre-orders are just bad, bad, bad.
  • Reply 11 of 36

    It'd be fine if it were a matter of older/newer.  It's not.  It's a matter of the Coin being unable to transmit your name to the reader, which some POS require.  There are some big names in their pretty random list of where it doesn't work.  Crate and Barrel is a big retailer that comes to mind from their list.  And I'm sure Crate and Barrel don't have old readers.

     

    It's an interesting demo of technology, but ultimate doesn't deliver something compelling enough to change out my wallet.  And this coming from someone who pre-ordered pretty early on.

  • Reply 12 of 36
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dreyfus2 View Post

     

     The crap with the artificial 20 Pound limit in the UK is IMHO exactly the same thing.


    The raising of the £20 Limit to £30 later this year has been mentioned many times here so that isn't news any longer. Nor is using ApplePay for a transaction that is more than the contactless limit.

    Back on topic.

    The Coin card might gain some temporary traction within the USA but outside? Especially in Europe because we've had Chip/Pin for years.

    I wish that American Companies would think globally rather than just the lower 48 states when it comes to things like this.

     

    Plus, sarts of the USA are very backward in some areas of car use. Some merchants still refuse to take out of state CC's and/or require an in state ZIP code even with PIN authorisation. Not have that? Then it is cash, small bills (no $50's) only. Tough when you find that the nearest ATM is down as well. It is easier for me to use my Visa card in China than it is in parts of New York (esp Long Island) because I don't live in New York State. 

  • Reply 13 of 36
    I am always astounded whenever I see magnetic strip still talked about. Europe and most of the developed world have been using Chip and Pin for at least 5 years and I can't even remember when I used a magnetic strip. How does a county that has so many advanced technology companies still rely on an archaic and insecure method?
  • Reply 14 of 36

    This swipe technology is used only in the States. Other countries accept this technology but banks have been deploying ChipPin tech for years and if your card has a chip, then swiping it will not work on a chip enabled reader. 

     

    The forced deployment of ChipPin tech is a very good but also very late move since more and more countries already roll out contact-less cards. That's what Apple is trying to do with ApplePay: skipping the chip-pin tech and going contactless in a secure fashion.

     

    In the grocery store here in Switzerland, they give us bar code readers when we come in, we scan our articles ourselves, put them directly in our reusable bag or backpack and pay the bill just before exiting. Contactless, with pre-registered card or good ol' chip+pin. No waiting line.

     

    hope you see this too in the next decade!

  • Reply 15 of 36
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,587member
    Plus, sarts of the USA are very backward in some areas of car use. Some merchants still refuse to take out of state CC's and/or require an in state ZIP code even with PIN authorisation.

    I've been using credit cards in the U.S. for nearly four decades, and I've never run into the issue of retailers refusing to take out of state CCs. However, they do sometimes ask for the zip code, but typically only with Amex, since it's a company requirement in many instances.
  • Reply 16 of 36

    So what happens when you are not from the USA? Say from Canada? You can't enter a zip code.

    My experiences are with both Visa and Mastercard. Both Debit and Credit cards.

    The zip code thing has also happened to me in Utah, Oregon and Texas in the last 12 months. Usually at Gas stations and after I have already entered the card pin number.

    As a certain TV presenter is fond of saying, 'What a load of old cock'.

     

    I never have this problem anywhere else in the world. 

  • Reply 17 of 36
    I have a Coin and it works, pretty nice piece of technology. Too bad it took so long for them to ship; in the time between then they announced it and I got mine Apple Pay was released, the US started moving to Chip PIN, and Samsung Loop pay came out. The Coin works but its definitely obsolete.
  • Reply 18 of 36
    rtdunhamrtdunham Posts: 428member
    Plus, sarts of the USA are very backward in some areas of car use. Some merchants still refuse to take out of state CC's and/or require an in state ZIP code even with PIN authorisation. Not have that? Then it is cash, small bills (no $50's) only. Tough when you find that the nearest ATM is down as well...
    I've driven through more than half the states in the past five years. I stay off the highways preferring local roads and try to stop at family restaurants and one off stores. I've never encountered the restriction you describe. Maybe it's something unique to the NYC area?
  • Reply 19 of 36
    So what happens when you are not from the USA? Say from Canada? You can't enter a zip code.
    My experiences are with both Visa and Mastercard. Both Debit and Credit cards.
    The zip code thing has also happened to me in Utah, Oregon and Texas in the last 12 months. Usually at Gas stations and after I have already entered the card pin number.
    As a certain TV presenter is fond of saying, 'What a load of old cock'.

    I never have this problem anywhere else in the world. 

    First, as I said before, gas station pumps have required the zip code only for Amex, in my experience. And that is an Amex, not a gas station, issue

    Second, have you gone into the gas station cashier before/after pumping gas to pay with your credit card at the counter in such a situation? What happens then?
  • Reply 20 of 36

    I, too, was an original backer and waited so long I had forgotten about it until it arrived in the mail. It's okay, but it doesn't work all the time (it NEVER works with my AMEX), so like others, I have to carry my credit cards with me, which obviates the need for Coin. Sounded like a good idea at the time. Too bad they could never got to proper execution.

Sign In or Register to comment.