After working on a failed mobile-payments startup, Coin CEO Kanishk Parashar rethought his approach. Instead of changing how merchants accept payments or how consumers pay for products and services, he brainstormed a way that allowed "both sides to keep their habits."
The result was Coin, a new smart card available for pre-order starting Thursday. Coin can replace most of the plastic that's found in a wallet, including credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards. Users toggle between cards by pinching a button—pinching avoids accidentally hitting the button and unnecessarily using energy when sat on—and a small screen displays letters to denote which card is active (D for Discover, AE for American Express, etc.) as well as the last digits and expiration date of the credit card. Parashar said he's lost track of the number of prototypes he's built, but each iteration has focused on bringing the size down while lowering battery consumption. The battery of the current prototype is expected to last about a year with regular usage.
Users add new cards to Coin by swiping them on a card reader and manage them with a mobile app. Using Bluetooth low energy, Coin will deactivate itself and send a notification letting users know they left their phones behind when the connection between it and the phone is broken. It's a security protocol, but it also means the card won't work without a phone (a note to those often caught off guard by dead phones). Coin also uses 256-bit encryption and follows the same compliance as other online wallets, Parashar said. "We have some secret projects in place to wow consumers, but we want to make sure we can achieve them first," he added, referring to possible security features.
Coin began taking pre-orders Thursday, aiming to raise $50,000 to cover manufacturing costs. Early backers can preorder the device for $50, though the card is expected to retail for $100. Parashar expects manufacturing to start in the middle of the first quarter, and he expects to begin shipping Coin in the summer.