Coin: Stepping stone or the next wave of mobile commerce?

Coin: Stepping stone or the next wave of mobile commerce?

Summary: An all-in-one device for credit and debit cards sounds both antiquated and too-good-to-be-true all at the same time. So which is it?


SAN FRANCISCO---Anyone with time to spare on reading news this Thanksgiving weekend will inevitably stumble upon plenty of statistics about how millions upon millions of eager-beavers will be descending upon brick-and-mortar stores nationwide over the next few days.

Regardless if the turnout ends up being down from previous years, everyone from mom-and-pop shops to big box retailers will be tapping into the latest e-commerce trends and tools to accommodate them better in the hopes of squeezing out extra bucks at the same time.

But what about tools that could consumers could pick up on their own to simplify the shopping experience anywhere all year round? Sure, the obvious immediate answers would be smartphone and tablet apps, inevitably resulting in the new pattern known as "showrooming."

But we know all about those.

Rather, there is a new method not even on the market yet, already grabbing the attention of tech savvy: Coin, a credit card-sized device boasted to be able to sit in place of up to eight credit and debit cards.

An all-in-one device for credit and debit cards sounds both antiquated and too good to be true all at the same time.

"If you hand over a plastic card right now, you’re never really sure if there is fraud going on,”  suggested Coin's CEO.

In regards to the former sentiment, it might appear as a step backward for mobile commerce given how much buzz and effort there has been around turning smartphones themselves into mobile wallets via apps from Isis and Google (among numerous others) not to mention continued (albeit whittling) talk about NFC technology.

In terms of hardware, arguably Square has had the most success (or at least attention), but there is competition in the mobile device attachment/companion app space from PayPal and Intuit too.

This discussion has gone on for a few years now, and not a single solution has proven to be the runaway hit. Thus, the door is still wide open for more mobile payment options to be presented.

A simple space saver like Coin could fit the bill -- at least for a time.

Naturally with anything technology, there are plenty of questions -- namely in regards to security -- that need to be answered first.

Topics: Mobility, E-Commerce, Hardware, Start-Ups, Tech Industry

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  • There are problems with Coin

    First, as Coin recognizes, some people will demand to see the actual card, not the Coin version. This is particularly the case with photocards, cards where a signature is used, and admission cards (eg to airport lounges etc).

    Second, it isn't compatible with EMV or "chip and PIN", which is the majority of smartcards in the developed world. The US financial industry is behind the times in adopting advanced technology (from the 1990s) but it will eventually have to move on. Every American who travels already knows their bank cards don't work in most places in Europe. (In fact, new European EMV cards also work via wireless.)
    Jack Schofield
    • Battery Life

      And let's not forget you are paying $50 to $100 for a card that only lasts two years before the non-removable battery dies.