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My experience with Coin and why it will ultimately fail

Update: While my opinion of the Coin has not changed I just wanted to give Coin's PR a shout out. This is how you do PR. And for the record I don't regret my decision to buy the Coin at all, it's just not going to cut it for me but I wish Coin the best of luck.

Coin, Use One Coin for All of Your Cards. If only that were true... If you add in a "sometimes" in there it's closer though I honestly can't even recommend for the "sometimes" use-case. Before we move on let me take a step back. Back in November of 2013 (2013-11-14 to be exact) I remember seeing Coin posted to Hacker News and thinking it was a really neat idea. At the time it was only $50 to pre-order the Coin (Now $100 + Shipping + Tax ~ $117.50) and I was in the middle of my "kickstarter craze" and so I jumped on it. The idea of only carrying one card was highly attractive to me as I hate sitting on my wallet and was interested in some of the slim wallets or even the phone case + wallet combinations. Going from 6-8 credit/debit/HSA/gift cards to just 1 would have made that transition even easier or at the very least my wallet thinner.

Beta Coin Back

As with most crowdfunding projects I have backed, I more or less forgot about Coin, save for the every few months "What ever happened to that Coin thing?" thoughts followed by obsessively checking the website for the ship date for a few hours. This continued until February 14, 2014 when I got an email offering access to the beta of Coin which would mean I would get a Coin earlier PLUS I would get the final version when it shipped. I jumped at the chance (Who wouldn't, it was a win-win), signed up, and waited for the beta. Ten months later (2014-12-21) I received an email informing me that my Coin beta had shipped and when I got back from Christmas vacation it was waiting in my mailbox.

Beta Coin Front

I was ecstatic to get my Coin and I immediately set it up; I was a little disappointed that I couldn't add my HSA card (the beta required micro-deposits to verify your card and it kept failing on my HSA card) but I got my credit and debit cards in more or less without issue (No indication of a "bad swipe in" was irritating but "It's a beta"). From the moment I received my Coin, I used it as my primary card for everything (except opening a tab, for that I would leave a real card then pay with the Coin) as I'm a big believer in going "all in" when testing/trying something. I had about a 70% success rate with swiping the card (this is not per-swipe but per POS, sometimes I'd see the person swipe the card 2-3 times before it went through, but I chalked this up to the beta as well as POS POS machines) and overall I was happy, it was a beta after all, the final version said it would fix all the issue with the beta and I had no reason to disbelieve this claim.

Final Coin Back

5 months later, in May, I got an email letting me know that my final Coin was shipping and I was excited to put all of the problems I had experienced behind me as well as getting new features like getting a notification when you leave your Coin behind. My Coin arrived in early June and I was pleasantly surprised to find I no longer had to go through the micro-deposit confirmation step and I was able to add my HSA account and the card swiper (to add cards) seemed to work better. I used it the next morning in my work cafeteria and it worked fine (it had worked countless times before so this was no surprise) however before I got to my desk I got the "Did you leave your Coin behind?" push notification. I checked my wallet and the Coin was in there so I just shrugged it off and went on with my day. Unfortunately that wasn't the last time I got that notification, in fact EVERY time I used my Coin 1-3 minutes later I would get that message even though there would be less than 1 foot between my wallet and phone.

Final Coin Front

I reached out to Coin support (after Googling and finding other users with the same issue) and their response was:

"I can totally understand that would be annoying and I know we are working on a fix to resolve that issue as other users are seeing same issue with lock & find telling them they left their phone behind even though it is in their pocket. The reason is because it is based of the amount of time you are away from your Coin device not the distance."

This was followed by some copy-pasta giving an overview of the "Lock & Find" feature. Needless to say this didn't really help me at all as my Coin had never been more than 1 foot for ANY amount of time. Shortly after this point even though I had only had the final version of Coin for about 3 weeks I decided to stop carrying my Coin.

The Coin was/is a very neat idea and if it worked you'd be reading about me singing its praises instead of putting it on a shelf to collect dust. The problem is it is so unreliable that you HAVE to carry a backup card with you at all time to the point that it's just easier to use the backup instead of the Coin. I thought about continuing to carry the Coin as a backup-only (So main card + Coin only) but even then I'd need to carry a backup for the Coin and it's just easier to carry 2-3 cards and no Coin. The Lock & Find features are neat but the Find feature is way too buggy and I've never lost my wallet (or a card) nor have I had any of my cards stolen so those features were less appealing to me. I'm not sure if it would have helped but I would have rather had a Coin that could only work with a handful of cards (Maybe no gift/loyalty cards?) if it worked 100% of the time but I doubt even giving up those things that it could get anywhere close to 100%.

I'm an early adopter, that's just me, I can put up with a lot of shit if, and only if, I know it's going to get better or I can see it getting better. That said, my experience from beta -> final was nearly identical (with the addition of the "Find" feature annoyance). Not a SINGLE place where it previously didn't swipe with the beta worked with the final so from my perspective the final didn't get me anything I really wanted. For 7 months I put up with "Sir, your card isn't working, do you have another?" and put up with teasing from friends about my "Space Card" (Apparently Space == Future to them). At the start it was just funny but after a while it got really old and I'd find myself watching the waiter/waitress/bartender and getting my backup card ready to hand them after seeing them try 2-3 times to swipe before giving up.

Side by side, Beta Left, Final Right

It's with no joy that I say that Coin "will ultimately fail". It's acceptance rate is unacceptable, it ships with extremely annoying bugs in major selling points, and at its core it doesn't make my life easier, in fact it makes my life harder. I also don't think Coin will be the only one to fail, I don't have high hopes for Plastc or any other Coin clones out there as I expect they will suffer from the same issues Coin did. Don't get me wrong, this is not an easy problem to solve, there are probably thousands, if not more, of different types of POS systems out there and trying to support them all would appear to be a fool's errand. Now Apple/Android/NFC pay is EXTREMELY interesting to me and the 3 times I've used Apple Pay I've found it to be very convenient so for now I'll just stick to 2-3 cards that I carry until Apple/Android/NFC pay is more ubiquitous.

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