Can't wait for NFC and Passbook? Download CardStar today

Can't wait for NFC and Passbook? Download CardStar today

Summary: If you're not ready to commit to a completely digital wallet like the Geode, or even a partial digital wallet like BookBook, CardStar might be the ticket for you.

CardStar is the all-software digital wallet for iOS

Your wallet's days are numbered. Get used to it.

I previously wrote about Kickstarter-based Geode which is a software and hardware wallet replacement for iOS with a ton of potential, but I found it unfinished. Then I wrote about BookBook, which is an iPhone case the doubles as a physical wallet. But CardStar predates both.

CardStar is a free app for iOS and Android that stores your retail loyalty cards in one convenient app. When it comes time to check out, instead of wielding a keyring full of plastic cards, simply pull up your loyalty card on your iPhone's display and have the clerk scan it.

When I first tried CardStar in late 2010, I had less than stellar results. Most retailers (Staples, ACE Hardware, Rite Aid) where I tried to flash my iPhone display in lieu of those terrible plastic cards I got a lot of blank stares -- and they wouldn't scan.

The problem is that CardStar was ahead of its time in 2010 and a lot has changed in two years -- mostly the result of new scanning hardware at the point of sale. 

The problem is that different merchants use different types of scanning technologies in their stores. While the newer scanning technologies work on all smartphones, some of the older scanning technologies are not compatible with the digital barcodes produced on mobile device screens.

ConstantContact, owners of CardStar, has done extensive testing with the various scanning hardware at the retail level and has these tips to share:

  • Flatbed scanners at self-checkouts rarely read any kind of digital barcode (including those produced by CardStar.)
  • Laser scanners can sometimes read digital barcodes but some mobile device screens cause interference based on the way the glass is affixed to the device or on the type of screen.
  • BlackBerry screens are not compatible with most laser scanners.
  • Laser scanners have difficulty reading digital barcodes from newer iPhones (4-4S) with retina displays.
  • Laser scanners have high scan success rates with older iPhones (3GS & earlier).
  • Optical (also called imaging) scanners have a near 100% success scanning rate from all mobile devices. 

CardStar is working with merchants to update their scanning technology and reduce these occurrences but nothing happens overnight. The company is betting that many merchants will upgrade to optical scanners at their POS terminals when Apple introduces iOS 6 and Passbook as soon as next month

If you're a CardStar user, here are some additional scanning tips:

  1. Make sure the screen is free of dust and fingerprints. 
  2. Hold the barcode image steady (don't wave it around).
  3. Set your screen brightness to 80% or higher for best scanning results.
  4. If you wish to use a screen protector we recommend screen protectors with a ‘Clear’ finish. Screen protectors with a ‘matte’ or ‘privacy’ finish can interfere with the scanning process. 

CardStar has been working a lot better for me lately and I've had success scanning it at local grocery chains like Giant and Wegmans -- presumably because they have updated scanners. When in doubt ask the clerk to try their hand scanner, as noted above, flatbed scanners rarely work with iPhone barcodes.

What's in your iPhone-wallet? 

Topics: Apple, Apps, E-Commerce, iOS, iPhone

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  • Are you a wallet?

    "You're wallet" -> "Your wallet."
    Grayson Peddie
  • Problem

    My main problem with this is, that I have my wallet in my pocket when I go shopping, but I don't generally carry my phone with me.

    That said, loyalty cards aren't big over here anyway. I have 2 loyalty cards and I use them once or twice a year, if I remember.
  • Card star working with retailers

    You must be joking, a minor does not work very well wallet company has no chance of affecting the hardware in retail - it moves glacially slowly, and most of the action in retail is around iPad pos, and Google/eBay and contact less payments, CRM, and multichannel.
  • A great idea, except when it doesn't work

    Sounds good except that I have to carry the actual cards around anyway because there's a good chance it won't work. It's probably easier to just pull out my keyring and flip through the attached cards rather than pull my phone, turn it on, unlock it, find the app or it's icon, start it, find the store's card.
  • wallets hold more than money

    So without a wallet, what do you show the police officer when he/she requests your license and insurance card? "End of Wallet" evangelists are forgetting that wallets carry more than just currency and credit cards.
    • thats very limiting thinking

      First you are thinking right now rather than tomorrow. Second, I seriously doubt there will be an overnight switch over to non wallet.

      Having used NFC google wallet for the last 6 months I think its fantastic and I can see the end of a physical wallet. I hardly go to ATMs anymore. But as you said its more than just cash & credit cards.

      Well a big fat bulk of my wallet was trimmed a few months ago when I moved all of my business cards to evernote.

      So that leaves very important things like drivers license. Beyond the license there aren't too many other things. Maybe your company ID. But the point is there are very few. I venture to guess that its not all that far fetch to believe that even DMV will catch up and will eventually join the digital age. Company IDs, they are probably more willing to use your phone than a company ID since it offers better tracking at all times.

      My point is that a lot of people scared of technology will immediately say "no way this will ever work, what about XYZ". There is always an excuse and it always get worked out. Weren't people freaked out about buying things on the internet or banking on the net and on your phone? Why should this be any different?
  • Android's KeyRing is about the same

    and has the same scanning issues. Check-out clerks around here are starting to get used to the chore of typing in the barcode digits. My wallet got a lot thinner after I scanned and ditched all the frequent customer cards.
    Jim Johnson