From smart cards to smartphone-based payment services, we've seen plenty of high-tech digital wallets vying for the attention of tech-savvy consumers. The Spendwallet is the latest of the bunch, an all-in-one device that opts for an in-house magnetic field technology instead of NFC.
Unlike mobile payment services Apple Pay and Android Pay, the Spendwallet doesn't use NFC. Instead, it makes use of a Magnetic Flux Emulation (MFE), a technology that generates a magnetic field, essentially tricking the reader into thinking a card has been swiped.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
We've seen similar technology before in mobile payment service Samsung Pay. According to the Spendwallet team, MFE is superior to Samsung's solution, with its in-house antenna and firmware providing lower power consumption and, reportedly, wider compatibility. The Spendwallet also distinguishes itself from Samsung Pay in that it takes the concept out of the smartphone and into a dedicated payment device.
According to the product's creators, the MFE method is also more reliable than rewritable magnetic strips, which we've seen in the past on devices like the Plastc.
The Spendwallet can store up to 20 cards, with support for debit, credit and gift cards. To set up a new card, the user needs to launch a companion iOS/Android app and then swipe the card through the included reader, which plugs into a smartphone headphone jack. The app then syncs the card data with the Spendwallet via Bluetooth Low Energy.
The hardware itself looks simple enough, with two capacitive buttons for switching between cards and one "spend" button for actually making payments. There's also a hidden LED display up top, which is only visible when the device is in use, showing which card is selected.
Built from a mixture of aluminum and plastic, the device weighs in at 65 g (0.14 lb) and measures 5.8 mm (0.23 in) thick. It's internal battery is rechargeable via a microUSB cable, and rated for four weeks on a single charge.
Personal data is stored under 256-bit encryption, and users will be notified via their smartphone if the device is more than 20 m (66 ft) away from them. If you lose the smart wallet completely, it's designed to lock and erase all locally stored data. It's also possible to set up a pass code via the app, which is entered by pressing a combination of the left, right and spend buttons on the smart wallet.
A little pouch on the rear of the Spendwallet lets users carry other essentials like ID and a few bank notes together with the device, giving it the potential to replace a traditional wallet.
The product is currently seeking funding on Indiegogo, which means that you can't actually buy one right now. The project has already more than doubled its US$30,000 funding goal with more than three weeks to go. Pledges for a single Spendwallet start at $99 and, assuming everything goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October.
You can see an overview of the project in the video below.