Smartphone-based payments like Apple Pay might be the buzzworthy tech of the moment, but it's not likely your phone is going to replace your ATM card, your company ID card, and all your loyalty and gift cards all at once. Stratos is a new smart card that, like competitors Coin and Plastc, aims to combine all those cards into one. The creators of Stratos, however, focused on maximum point-of-service compatibility (they claim 100 percent) and ease of use — not to mention shipping their product ahead of the others in order to get their foot in the door.
Stratos, like the other cards, has a magnetic stripe that can rewrite itself, letting it imitate your other cards, which you scan with a dongle. There are three buttons on the card itself that let you swap between your three most-used cards — or if the card you need isn't in your top three, just tap Stratos twice and it picks what card it thinks you want, based on your location. At a gas station? Probably the gas rewards card. At the mall? The Macy's gift card. The options are presented on your phone's lockscreen, so there's no need to open an app — though you'll need to if you want to add cards or change what the buttons select.
Stratos also tracks card usage and balance, and alerts you if you leave it behind. Additional features are planned, like the ability to issue a one-time-use card number on the fly (for sketchy locations or purchases you might not want on the record). If you want them, Stratos hopes you'll subscribe for $95 per year (or $145 for two) and they'll send you the latest, updated card regularly — or you can skip the subscription and just keep the one you have until its battery runs out (after two years or so).
Stratos will ship in April, giving it a head start on the market, but competition is on its way in card, smartwatch, and app form.
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