If you're one of the adventurous early adopters who pre-ordered Coin, you now finally have the chance to try it out. To recap: This Bluetooth-enabled piece of plastic acts as a stand-in for up to eight different cards, so that you only have to carry one when you're out and about. Until now, Coin has been available to beta testers, but only 1,000 of them -- a far cry from the multitudes who already placed pre-orders. (The startup sold 20,000 units alone in the first five hours its fundraising campaign was open.) Now, in an effort to fully QA the product before it hits stores, the company will expand its beta program to 10,000 people over the coming months. That means you could finally get your hands on one -- if you're willing to settle for non-final hardware.
As you might expect, the accompanying app will also become available, with the iOS version arriving next week, on August 28th, and the Android edition following a month later, on September 25th. Obviously, whichever OS you use, you'll need the application to store all your cards. By the way, this might be a good time to clarify that although the Coin device itself can store just eight accounts, the app can hold an unlimited number of cards. And that's not just credit cards, mind you, but debit, gift and loyalty cards, too. So, even if you choose not to put a card on your Coin device, you can still retrieve your card info at any time -- say, if you want to buy something online. The app has a clean UI too, with the cards arranged in a carousel. If you do need a certain card at the ready, you can swap cards on and off your Coin with the aid of a small connector that plugs into your phone's headphone jack. Basically, it looks like a Square reader, complete with a standard credit-card swipe slot.
After being treated to a brief demo, the initial setup process struck us as straightforward, if a bit tedious: You have to use your phone camera to photograph both the front and back of each card. You'll also have to manually enter some information to verify you are, in fact, the owner of the card. Then again, this is just a one-time step, and the actual device is very easy to use: Just press a button on your Coin to cycle through different cards. A small screen on the device itself will show you which card you're about to use -- the Visa ending in "1234," or maybe the Amex ending in "5678." If you're new to Coin, you might fear somewhat for the device's battery life -- the battery is non-replaceable, after all -- but the company claims it can last two years without a recharge. It's unclear how much a replacement will cost, or whether return customers will get a discount; CEO Kanishk Parashar only says the company will have an upgrade plan in place by the time the first generation of devices need a refresh.
In addition to that first-time setup process, Coin will have other security features as well, including an alarm that tracks the number of times the card is swiped. You can also lock the device to just one card before you hand it over at a store or restaurant. A Bluetooth-powered leash will send you an alert if you start to walk away without your Coin. It also allows the device to automatically unlock when it's near a phone, but Parashar says that feature might not make it into the final edition. Also, if you use a chip-and-pin credit card (popular in Europe and other regions), Coin doesn't support those cards yet, but the company says it's working on it.
As a warning, entry into the beta program will favor people who pre-ordered the earliest. If you get a spot, you can either take it, or wait until the first-generation model ships early next year. If you do join the beta, the pre-order price you paid gets you a non-final, pre-production device; you can later buy the final edition for $30 (the full retail price will be $100). That's important because if you choose not to participate in the beta, you're getting a final device for the pre-order price you paid. You'll have to wait longer, yes, but you also won't need to shell out an extra $30 just to get a complete, polished piece of hardware. Definitely something to think about.
Some other things you should know: Beta testers are entitled to a 50 percent discount on all Coin products for three years. And if you pre-order multiple Coins, you can also choose to give away the extras as gifts, and send them to your friends instead. Don't mistake this for a OnePlus One invite system, though; it's not like everyone will automatically have invitations to give away. In any case, we hope to test one ourselves, but until then, we've embedded the demo video below, in case you missed it the first time around -- not everyone is an early adopter, after all.
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