Coin. the buzzy but troubled company whose signature product seeks to replace your credit cards with a single piece of plastic, will begin shipping the second version of its card today. Coin 2.0 includes an NFC chip to enable contactless payments. It has newly refined refined sensors for improved swiping, particularly outdoors, where variations in temperature and humidity often caused the card to fail. The card is thinner than its predecessor at 0.8 millimeters, and allows you to create short nicknames for your cards.
And for the early buyers of the card, who waited nearly a year and a half to start receiving their devices after a successful crowdfunding campaign, there’s a bonus: everyone who has ever purchased a Coin gets version 2.0 for free. (If you’ve bought yours and it hasn’t shipped yet, this means you, too.) "We’re working really hard to reinforce how important our users are to us," says Kanishk Parashar, the company’s founder and CEO. "We’re trying to ship more and more valuable functionality to them as soon as we can."
"We're working really hard to reinforce how important our users are to us."
"As soon we can" has often proved to be later than Coin’s backers hoped. The card was met with great enthusiasm when it was announced in November 2013, with more than 20,000 people pre-ordering Coin at a discounted price of $55. At the time, the company said the device would ship in the summer of 2014. But when the summer came, Coin said the device would only be available in a limited beta — and that anyone who opted in to the beta would have to buy a new Coin when it came out for real the following spring.
The company backtracked two days later. apologizing for attempting to change the terms of its deal with crowdfunders. It finally began shipping version 1.0 this spring, but has continued to be dogged by criticisms that it simply doesn’t work as advertised. In 2014, the company said Coin worked in 85 percent of
US locations. A year later, the company says it works in … 85 percent of US locations.
More delays ahead
And there are more delays to be found in the 2.0 update. The company says it will take until the first quarter of next year before it ships upgraded cards to all of the original buyers. And the NFC chip is in "early access mode," with Coin declining to specify which or how cards might work with the feature when it ships.
Coin has shipped more than 80,000 devices to date, and inspired a raft of similar would-be universal credit cards: Swyp. Plastc. and Stratos are among the best known. There’s clearly an appetite for a universal card, at least among early adopters.
But I’m still not convinced a universal card is worth the $100 or so it will cost you, even at version 2.0. A debit card works almost anywhere, requires no battery, and will be replaced by most banks for free. And if you’re looking for a device that stores multiple cards and has NFC that already works with most major credit cards, check your existing smartphone: Apple Pay has you covered; Samsung Pay is coming next month; and Android Pay is expected to launch soon to cover other Android devices.
Coin and its rivals have gotten a long way thanks to their sleek plastics and flashy marketing videos. But it’s hard not to feel like they’ve been built for a present day that is receding rapidly into the past. Parashar says banks are eager to work with Coin because they want their payment network to power a broad ecosystem of devices. (Better that than see a single new solution, such as Apple Pay, come to dominate transactions — and reduce their negotiating power.)
But until banks start subsidizing the cost of Coin for customers — heck, until Coin enables NFC payments for all the major banks — it’s all just talk. And if you’ve been following Coin’s story for this long, you could be forgiven for deciding that you’ve heard enough.