The Smart Card: Impossible Dream, or Coming soon?

SmartcardReaders may remember when I recommended the Plastc Card. Or when I retracted that recommendation. Well, the story didn’t end then. Plastc declared it’s intention to file for bankruptcy on April 20th 2017. They originally promised a Summer 2015 delivery, but now will be leaving some $9 million in preorders in questionable status.

Plastc’s abrupt exit from the marketplace has left many of their backers frustrated: Many did not pursue a refund when it was an option, and now they are locked in struggles with payment agencies, trying to recover hundreds of dollars apiece. Lawsuits are being explored, and a Facebook support group has cropped up as well. With pent-up frustration and anger, many of the former Plastc backers are understandably suspicious of newcomers into the market.

When I originally recommended Plastc, it beat out Coin, Swyp, and Stratos for my recommendations. Since then, Coin folded, Swyp has not delivered, and Stratos was bought out by another company and discontinued. Two new competitiors are on the market now, and both are bearing the brunt of Plastc backers’ frustrations: Fuzecard, and Edge.

The New Challengers

Fuze, formerly known as Thinpl and also known as bpay in Korea, is essentially the same product as Plastc with a few minor changes. They promise NFC, EMV, Magstripe payments alongside RFID replication. The card has a smaller e-ink display and relies on buttons for the interface. Fuze is working off a similar business model to Plastc, but claims that the R&D is already complete and they have operational devices in beta testing in progress. As of today, they have launched and surpassed a $50,000 fundraising goal on Indiegogo, where they are offering two versions of the card for $79, $119, or $159 for both. Shipping estimates are this summer for an EMV-Free card, and January for the full-featured device.

Edgecard on the other hand has shied away from crowdfunding for now. Their trailer shows a touchscreen device with an Android-like interface, and offers everything in the Fuzecard and more. The advertisement is suspiciously advanced, and if this product proves to be more than vaporware, will be the most impressive looking smartcard on the market. Still, with advertised features like an on-screen thumbprint reader which Samsung is rumored to have failed to fit into the Galaxy S8, the Edgecard seems too good to be true. Currently, Edgecard estimates a Q2 2018 shipment, but has not announced pricing or pre-orders. They have, however, offered a discount to Plastc backers that will be available as an additional discount on pre-orders or a flat discount on post-launch orders.

Whether these companies deliver or not, this marketspace is certainly going to remain fun to watch for the forseeable future. I for one would love to have a suitable wallet replacement along the lines of these single-card solutions, but will remain suspicious until they actually start shipping. Pessimism is justified given the history of the Smartcard, but historical failures don’t necessarily mean newer companies won’t crack the problem. I for one wish Fuze and Edgecard great fortune in delivering on their designs.

 

-Mash

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