San Francisco-based Coin tried to soothe tensions last week after a public relations snafu tied to its product delay. But the startup, which manufactures an electronic device for storing credit and debit card info, may have another, less controllable issue on its hands: the company's beta program proved too successful, leaving many customers excluded and, once again, angry.
Coin's beta program was announced August 22 and replaced the company's full product launch. Coin had originally slated its product release for summer 2014 but was forced to push it back to fix manufacturing and product kinks. The beta was designed to give select preorder customers the chance to use a more limited, prototype version of Coin ahead of the official launch next year, with beta units to begin shipping in September.
The delay announcement triggered an immediate backlash because Coin planned on charging beta program participants an additional $30 to receive the finished product. Coin reversed its stance a day later, letting customers try the Coin beta free of charge while expanding the number of users who could apply for a prototype from 10,000 to 15,000.
Yet the crushing demand for Coin -- even its prototype -- left some customers feeling that Coin's gesture was a half-measure.
Nearly every preorder customer who bought Coin on the first day it was available to order has opted-in to the 15,000-person beta program, the company announced Thursday, after the August 28 release of its iOS app. That means that unless you ordered Coin on November 14, 2013, and did so in the first six hours it was available, you're ineligible for the beta program.
"Due to a high opt-in rate of 96.25 percent, if you ordered after November 14th 3:06:38 p.m. PT it is unlikely that you are eligible for Coin Beta," the company explained in a post on its website.
Many Coin preorder customers took to Twitter on Thursday to complain about the beta sign-up's confusing nature and demanded more clarity. Coin repeatedly stressed that a customer's odds of trying its prototype months early would be determined by the preorder number. Meanwhile, a parody Twitter account sprouted up lampooning Coin's efforts to communicate with customers.
A startup to help people understand @coin's insanely confusing sign up and beta process.
-- Brian Capps (@bcapps) August 29, 2014
"Until Thursday afternoon at around 4 p.m. PT, we did not have sufficient information regarding the opt-in rate to reliably announce a cut-off time," the company explained in its post.
Coin has reserved 3,600 spots out of 15,000 for Android users, who will not be able to opt-in to the beta program until September 25, when Coin's mobile app for Android is released on the Google Play store. That 24 percent reserve amount is based on Coin's preorder split, the company said.
It was unclear last week what kind of demand Coin would see for its beta program, especially given the outspoken dissatisfaction that began piling up on social platforms. Scores of customers posted on Coin's Facebook page, on Twitter, and in the comments sections of the company's various blog posts following the beta announcement, seeking refunds. The company began processing refunds at once, yet that vocal minority appears to barely have put a dent in Coin's customer base.
Coin CEO Kanishk Parashar told CNET last week that Coin received 20,000 preorders within its first five hours of availability. So it's no surprise that, refunds or not, the company still has tens of thousands of eager customers waiting to take to the streets the company's vision of the credit card of the future -- if only to make sure it works as advertised.
Come 2015, Coin's next hurdles will be meeting the spring deadline for its finished product while researching and developing a solution for incorporating a secure microchip that's in the process of being adopted in the US. Neither Coin's beta prototype nor its finished product slated to ship next year will contain a chip. The credit card industry is pressuring card issuers and merchants to adopt chip-reading technology, long the norm in Canada and Europe, before an October 2015 liability shift that will favor whichever party has the most up-to-date technology.
Until then, don't expect to see a Coin prototype out in the wild. The devices are few and far between for now.