I love browsing through Kickstarter to see what cool new iOS-related products and apps might be headed our way, and here is one really cool and innovative iPhone 4/4S case that I came across.
Designed in Cambridge, MA by iCache, the Geode case not only offers a number of truly innovative features which we’ve never seen on a commercially available smartphone case before, it also challenges the traditional way in which we pay for goods and services.
In broad strokes, the iCache Geode is a digital wallet case for your iPhone 4/4S, offering secure, on-demand access to any of your existing credit cards, loyalty and membership cards using leading-edge technology to temporarily program a blank universal credit card and e-ink barcode screen. Virtually eliminating the need to cary around a regular wallet. All of your credit card information is protected by a biometric, fingerprint scanning system.
The package is made up of several components, the first of which is the Geode itself, a hard shell which connects to your iPhone’s 30 pint connector. On the front of the case is a biometric fingerprint scanner much like those you see on Lenovo laptops. On the rear is where the real magic of the Geode case resides. There is a full credit card programmer which both stores and programs your blank GeoCard. There is also a fairly large e-ink display which is used to display the barcode of any of your frequent shopper, loyalty or membership cards for quick and easy recognition by any scanner (even laser). While there is no pass-through for the 30-pin connector, there is a micro-usb port which can be used for charging (since the case itself does not have an extended iPhone battery, at least not for this first version) or connecting your phone to iTunes for syncing. Finally you also get an external card reader which you will use to initially load your credit cards into your Geode.
Once setup, the idea is that now all you have to carry around with you is your phone, in the Geode case. When you want to make a purchase you launch the free Geode app, and select the credit card you want to use. That cards information is then programmed onto the GeoCard (stored securely on the back of your phone). You then hand your GeoCard to the merchant to pay as you normally would with any credit card. By default the programmed card is only good for 20 seconds, enough time to make a single transaction, which, if you think about it, actually offers better protection against theft than your standard credit card.
iCache claims that their Geode is “truly accepted everywhere and can be used at any point-of-sale terminal”. Sure, the GeoCard does look very similar to a standard credit card, but there are no raised digits on the front of the card, which I suspect could present an issue at some merchants. For instance, when I get a loaner car at the dealership, then need to make a photo copy of my credit card, and I know that stores like Lowes require you and/or the cashier to manually enter the last 4 digits of the card to complete the transaction. iCache covers the latter use case in their FAQ with the following statement: “With the Geode, you can easily show (or give) the last 4 digits of the card you choose to use from the virtual card on your screen. The merchant would then enter this into their system as they normally would with a physical card and get back a proper authorization.” Even so, I’d bet there is a good chance you will still get more than a few accusatory stares or outright denials from merchants until this technology catches on.
I encourage you to check out the full FAQ as the iCache team have covered a lot of the common questions that you might have about the technology, its security and possible issues like ‘what if my phone runs out of power?’, or ‘where do I put my license?’ (for which they have 8 possible design options for people to vote on).?
The Kickstarter campaign still has about 5 days to go, but the project already has over 1500 backers and nearly $310,000, which is more than six times it’s initial goal of $50,000. For a pledge of $159 you can secure a Geode for yourself at a substantial discount, as it is slated to be $199 retail at launch. The case is only available for the iPhone 4 and 4S, and backers will receive their units sometime in June of this year. Planning on upgrading to the iPhone 5? iCache has a special upgrade deal especially for Kickstarters. Any Kickstarter sponsor “who decides to buy a Geode for the iPhone 5 in the future, we will offer a 50% rebate off of the retail price”. Sure, there is no price set yet, but it is an awesome gesture on iCache’s part.
This is an absolutely amazing looking case and it’s taking quite a bit of restraint to keep me from pulling the trigger on one. I’m excited by technology and curious to see how merchants react once it is out in the wild. Congratulations to iCache for getting this so overwhelmingly funded, it is great to see this kind of innovation.