Last November, Coin offered a first taste of what was possible. The device promised to digitally hold eight credit or debit cards and let you choose between them at will. You could swipe Coin in any conventional card reader, and it would notify you if it had been lost or stolen using Bluetooth. Coin would have a two-year battery life, and a companion app that could hold your coupons and ID cards. But Coin still hasn’t shipped.
Unfortunately for Plastc and Coin, Apple Pay is launching later this month, beating both devices to market by a margin of several months or more. By the time Plastc launches next summer, Apple will be on the verge of launching its next iPhone, and then two generations of iPhone will support Apple Pay. Meanwhile, by October 2015, Coin will already be antiquated as American retailers are forced to buy new card readers to support EMV chips, which Coin does not work with. These new readers will also likely support NFC, which cements Apple Pay’s position. Plastc, notably, does work with NFC and EMV — which keeps the company safe for now, according to COO Ryan Marquis.
"Ultimately a cloud-based digital wallet will be the winner," says Marquis, "but with our technology, we can allow consumers to build a digital wallet using a form factor that they’re used to today." Marquis says there are still many use cases where we need physical cards like subway ticketing machines, ATMs, and gas pumps. "I will utilize Apple Pay because it’s simple and easy, but there are so many use cases in our world where I’m still going to need a physical card," he says. "There are so many things that point-of-sale machines just aren’t ready for yet."
Ten years down the line, payments won’t live inside one app or one gadget. They’ll travel with us from context to context — they’ll have to, because you need your money no matter what technology you happen to be using that day. And Plastc’s betting you $155 that the old-fashioned credit card isn’t going anywhere — it’s just getting a lot smarter.