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Smart card readers for the iPhone and iPad

Joseph Roth | July 11, 2013
Flexible PKard Reader and elegant Tactivo bring smart card authentication to your favorite mobile device

PKard Reader: Less elegant, more flexible
Thursby's PKard Reader is not as stylish as the Tactivo, nor does it include a fingerprint reader. But unlike the Tactivo, the PKard Reader has the ability to work on both the iPhone and iPad. It's currently available for the 30-pin models, but also works with Apple's Lightning to 30-pin Adapter to connect to the newer iPhones and iPads. (Thursby plans to sell a Lightning version of the PKard Reader in the future.)

The PKard Reader is not as easy to handle as the Tactivo, as both the card reader and the smart card hang from the bottom of the iPhone or iPad. I was afraid that if I wasn't careful, I could damage the reader by accidently breaking it off. With the Tactivo, I felt much more comfortable using my iPhone with one hand. With the PKard Reader, I was definitely using two hands. Plus, the PKard Reader is yet another accessory to remember and carry with you. All that said, the PKard Reader is quite usable — and the same reader works with your iPhone or iPad.

The 30-pin version of the PKard Reader retails for $149.99 in black or white. For an additional $10, Thursby will sell you a Lightning adapter. A video demo of the PKard Reader is also available.

Which smart card reader should you buy? I would give a slight edge to Thursby's PKard Reader, mainly because of the price. Although the Tactivo is easier to use and includes the fingerprint reader, it's too expensive for my taste — especially considering you have to buy two different models for the iPhone and the iPad. Paying $249 for the iPhone version and $299 for the iPad version is a lot of money. If you really want both the fingerprint reader and the smart card reader, and money is no object (say, your boss is paying for it), get the Tactivo. Overall, though, the $149.99 PKard Reader is a better value, as it can work with any iOS device for roughly half the cost.

Whether you choose the PKard Reader or the Tactivo, you get a solid smart card reader that brings effective two-factor authentication to your iOS device.


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