Every few weeks or so it seems like a new mobile payments service is being announced. From Apple Pay and Coin, to rumours about Faceboook Messenger supporting payments, there seems to be one constant: Canadians are not getting any love. However, an announcement today from a new company called Plastc may change all that.
There’s a revolution coming, and I’m really excited. We’re in a new era where mobile devices are becoming our everything. They can measure our heart rate, be our full-time camera, and replace the need for a traditional computer in some cases. But there’s still one thing smartphones haven’t replaced, and that’s the wallet. The chunky old leather wallet stuffed with credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, and maybe even some business cards. We’ve seen many attempts to replace the wallet through digital solutions like Google Wallet, Square Wallet, and the upcoming Apple Pay. Unfortunately, with such groundbreaking innovation, barriers to adoption are high, and only a few reaching a critical mass, or tipping point, to survive. Even if they do survive, the chances of it making it to Canada are slim.
This is why I’m so excited about Plastc. Forget about complicated contracts and fees to banks that limit the entry of digital wallets into Canada. Plastc bridges the gap between phyiscal and digital, and relies on existing infrastructure to succeed, giving it low barriers to adoption, and instant compatibility with global markets. The card is retailing for $155 USD, but add $10 shipping to that and Plastc will send the card to Canada when it is released in summer 2015. In fact, Plastc will send the card to any country in the world.
The team behind Plastc have created what looks like a really great product. Unlike Coin, Plastc supports NFC and Chip & Pin technology, both of which are crucial for success in the Canadian market. These technologies are widely accepted in Canada, unlike in the US, and supporting these features means Plastc will work north of the border. Plastc also has an e-ink touchscreen, which lets you password protect your card, but also see all of your card details, including CVV and Expiry Dates, so you can use Plastc online without having your original card handy. Battery life has also been considered. With 30 days of battery on a single charge, users won’t have to worry about being S.O.L. without any cash. If your Plastc card dies, it will automatically lock into a preset ‘default card’, ensuring that you’re always able to pay. Plus, Plastc comes with a sleek wireless charging cradle, so users can simply place their wallet on top and charge away as they sleep. Brilliant.
I’m really impressed with the thought that Plastc’s designers put into the product, and I hope it pays off. November 2014 marks one year since Coin was announced, and the product still hasn’t shipped. I’d hate for the same to happen to Plastc.
Despite a great product, Plastc’s main barrier to success is price. Plastc is competing directly against Coin, which sells for $100 vs. Plastc’s higher $150 price point. Plastc wins out here, as it packs in more features, and can be recharged. Coin has stated that it’s battery will die after a two year period, after which users must purchase a new Coin card again.
Plastc is also competing against free services, like Apple Pay. While Coin may make it to Canada before Apple Pay does, it is hard for me to imagine a consumer laying down $150 in cash just to reduce their wallet size, when their next iPhone will have this capability built in for no added charge. Plastc will need to either reduce their price point, or focus on their benefits over competitors, namely security and compatibility with a wider variety of payment methods.
With the mobile payments battle heating up in the US, the battle is sure to head north, but for now, there’s some ease in knowing that one company is showing us Canadians some love.