A Formulated Technology Column


The Massive Problem With Coin

For those who haven’t read about it, Coin is one of the latest and coolest startups one can find in today’s saturated Silicon Valley scene. The basic premise of their idea is: if you’ve got lots of credit cards that you carry around on a daily basis, why not condense all of them into one card? Well, that’s where Coin comes in. You can add all of your credit card details into an iOS app, which would then be synced to the Coin card (which, in size, is no bigger than your plastic credit card) and from thereon, you can just use your Coin card whenever purchasing something. It swipes like a normal card as you’d expect from a plastic credit card and has a small, monotone screen which allows you to select which credit card you’re going to use before you pay for something. Great. Oh even better still, they’ve got a couple of awesome security features: 1) if you leave your Coin behind for more than 10 feet, a notification will be sent to your iPhone (or Android) to make sure that you’re not leaving your card behind unintentionally and 2) you can disable your Coin from your iPhone/Android app after a set amount of time you set on the iPhone/Android app. Oh – and the card isn’t even some ugly, dorky crap that only people in Silicon Valley would use! It’s actually pretty slick (first coming in black, others later) and with the tiny screen – it looks futuristic. But of course, there are people who oppose the idea of Coin.

The most vocal opposition of Coin right now is “We’re going to let a bunch of folks hold all of our credit card data with them???” While Coin hasn’t clarified on this issue, one can safely assume that most of our credit card data, which is being input through the apps, are stored on their servers. That means that Coin could, if they want to (not that they will, I hope…), use our data for just about anything.

That freaks people out.

But you know what?

That’s fine by me.

Because we’ve done it before.

And we’ll do it again once we’re done with our little freakout. We’ve trusted Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook (some of us) and many other sites with our credit card data. We’ve trusted little indie shops and developers whenever they ask for a donation on their site with our credit card data. We’ve trusted shady online stores with our credit card data. In fact, the people who has access to your credit card data that thankfully haven’t abused it is probably more than you can imagine. So, really, what makes Coin any difference? If anything, I’d trust Coin to not screw up with the data since they’re a new company and when they are handling large amounts of private and critical data (which is essential to their business… the very purpose of Coin cannot be fulfilled without you giving them your credit card data), I believe that they know credibility/trustworthiness in the eyes of the customer is the only thing that they have to keep them afloat as a business.

Tl;dr? I trust them. You probably should too.

But there’ll be one genuine problem I have with using Coin in my daily life. And it’s not really Coin’s fault.  It’s the fault of us, human beings, whenever we experience something new. And this problem, depending on where you live, might render your Coin unusable in all cases. Here’s the problem: outside of the consumer technology (or just technology) sector, no one knows what the hell Coin is. Sure, there’s a chance that they will as it gets more popular and more news organization picks the story up, but for the first few months (there’s a chance it might even be forever), no one will know what it is. And so when hand over your card to pay for the restaurant bill (other than if the restaurant is in San Francisco or perhaps New York), do expect some blank looks. And rejection. Because that’s what you’re getting.

“Oh sir, sorry but we only accept credit cards like Visa, MasterCard or some other form of an actual credit card not whatever you just gave us.”

“Well, this is a credit card.”

“No, it’s not. We weren’t born yesterday and we know what credit cards look like. This isn’t one.”

“Okay fine. Cash?”

See the problem? People don’t get used to new technology until it becomes mainstream. Think Google Glasses. It’s weird to use it in the bathroom now (if you do own one, please don’t until the rest of us owns one too so we can look at each other taking a piss through a technology that can picture it at will). But once everyone starts owning Google Glasses, no one is going to take it off just to go to the bathroom – it’s too much of a hassle! So everyone will just accept the fact that a picture of them peeing might just end up online. That’s adaptation to new technology. And it’ll take time (for the case of Google Glasses, that’s probably when the technology gets cheap. For Coin, it’s probably when people know what it is).

Eventually, all of us will (hopefully) know what Coin is. But until then, it might very well be useless for you to go out and buy one.