A Boston start-up has joined a growing group of companies that are innovating cashless payments with a new device that transforms Apple smartphones into credit cards.
The Loop Fob plugs into the headphone jack on iPhones, powering a magnetic field that will in effect “swipe” a credit card on traditional point of sale readers. Credit card information is stored "securely" within an application on the phone, so users can toggle among their cards.
The device costs US$39, and received $10M in funding following a KickStarter campaign. A more practical iPhone case with the same capability runs for $99. Both products should work fine as long as your smartphone has a charge. A dead phone battery is one thing, but not having any money is even worse.
There are other products to replace credit cards, but those work differently - without requiring additional phone hardware. The Coin is about the same size as a tradition credit card with embedded card information. It’s sold for around $105, and was also a major success on KickStarter. Its unremovable battery has a two-year lifespan, so Coin is effectively a $50 subscription, Bits Damon Darlin has reported.
I wouldn’t be surprised if those payment capabilities were eventually built into smartphones. The mobile payment ecosystem will thrive with its early adopters, but mainstream use won’t occur until the Apples and Samsungs of this world do it themselves. Apple will likely do it its own way and might not be first.
The next challenge is our IDs: we all should carry a license and medical. Phones can't replace those - yet. Apple's passbook feature might be a clue into its intentions. We'll soon find out.