Stratos wants to be the supercard that holds all your credit card details
Forget Apple Pay. A Michigan startup says what you really need is a Buetooth-enabled supercard.
On Tuesday, Stratos introduced such a device, which it bills as the industry's first payment card that consolidates an unlimited amount of cards into one. The Stratos Bluetooth Connected Card, which the company has worked on for three years, is roughly the same size and weight of a standard credit card, but it's electronic and can be accepted anywhere.
Thiago Olson, the CEO and cofounder of Stratos, compares the concept to the iPod, which consolidated a user's CD collection into one device. In the future, he says, you'll also be able to add a new card to Stratos without having a plastic card handy. That means that if you're on vacation and lose your American Express, the company won't have to FedEx one to you in Maui.
While that feature isn't yet available, when the card launches in April, you'll be able to load all your credit cards onto Stratos. You can also add some identification cards as well. If all goes well, you'll be able to travel as Olson does — with his phone, a driver's license and a Stratos card.
The price for such convenience is $99 or $145 for one- or two years, respectively. If you order, Stratos sends you a personalized card, a reader that attaches to your phone so you can add your credit card info (the technology supports iOS and Android) and a six-month warranty in case the waterproof card gets damaged or destroyed.
The device offers some perks in addition to convenience. If it's separated from your phone for a specified length of time, it goes into lock-down mode, so if you lose a card it's useless to the finder. It can also send you real-time notifications via your phone (example: "There's a Starbucks nearby") based on your location.
If the idea sounds familiar, that's because Coin, another startup, floated a similar concept in 2013. Despite promising a summer 2014 release, though, Coin pushed that back and promised to launch the product this spring. A rep for Coin declined comment on the timing of the relaunch.
Coin attempted to crowdfund its product. Stratos has received a little over $7 million in funding. While Coin made headlines, Olson and his team were quietly working out the kinks on the product, which contained a lot of complexities, Olson says, including the wafer-thin form factor and all the back-end coding.
Assuming Stratos works as advertised, the question is whether Apple Pay and the looming introduction of the Apple Watch will jump start mobile payments. One criticism of such mobile payment schemes is that it's not all that hard to reach into your wallet and use your credit card. The same critique could be lobbed at Stratos, since it's not very difficult to pick out your one card among many in your wallet. The persistence of alternate card designs (my wallet, for instance, includes an RFID smart card for the PATH trains) also means you won't be able to ditch your wallet for Stratos just yet. Still, for early adopters and seekers of simplicity, Stratos may be worth the cash.