It seems to be all the rage these days. In fact, Google Wallet at one point was looking like they were going in that direction. Coin was a great potential all-in-one card, but it never really seemed to happen. Introducing Stratos, the next generation of all-in-one cards and it’s set to launch in April (Wednesday?).
What Is Stratos?
It’s a simple question, and the simple answer is that it’s an all-in-one card. You can set up credit cards, gift cards, and even membership cards with the app and the physical Stratos card will simulate the real card when you swipe it (or tap it) on the terminal. In contrast with Coin and other products like this, you don’t just buy it and call it a day. You’re paying for a membership with Stratos. What that actually means is that you get a card, reader, and mobile app and then an annual upgrade/replacement card in addition to the things that you would expect (customer service, “smart suggestions” within the app, etc.).
The card itself is basically a battery with a magnetic strip and a memory chip. According to them, the battery lasts 2 years with regular use, but with the regular upgrades that should never become a problem. If it does, however, when the battery gets low on the card, the app will ping Stratos’ powers that be and they will send you a new card right away. It’s the size and shape of a regular credit card and uses Bluetooth LE to communicate with your phone. It also comes in five different color schemes so you can express your individuality!
According to their documentation, using the system is very easy. To set up, you swipe the cards you want to enter using the card reader and it automatically enters all of the information. You can also pick your three favorite cards for easy access. You can actually change which card is being used (of your favorites) by using touch sensors on the front of the card.
Stratos is compatible with iOS 8 and up and Android 4.3 and up, so it really should cover the vast majority of phones that were produced in the last two years (Even the Samsung Galaxy S III made it to 4.3).
Probably one of the most important things with a product like this is security. They claim that they have “bank-level” encryption of the card data and never displays your card numbers, so one can assume that it is at least as secure as a normal plastic card with EMV technology. That said, the card does have some additional security features. In the settings you can set it to automatically lock itself when it hasn’t synced with your phone for a certain period of time. They mention as an example that you can make this setting 24 hours, but they show that it can also be as low as 2 hours. This could, of course, come back to bite you if your phone dies when you’re out and would potentially use your card, but that’s just something you’ll have to take into consideration when setting up your card (or going out for the night).
What Does It Cost, Though?
The other big question is how much will this set you back? The annual membership is $95 or you can save yourself a few ($45) bucks and cop the 2-year membership for $145. This might seem like a lot, and it is, especially for something that really is such a luxury item. That said, a lot of people pay more than that for the annual fee on their actual credit card, so a little bit more to not have to haul a wallet full of cards around might sound great to them. To bring this product to the masses, they’ll probably need to bring the cost down significantly or find a different means of monetizing their product, but it’s still really cool either way.