Isis plans to roll out its mobile payments app nationwide before the end of the year. The joint venture formed by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile US launched the app in Austin and Salt Lake City 9 months ago, and has been hard at work forging partnerships with retailers in its two pilot cities.
Users of the Isis mobile wallet can make payments by tapping their smartphones to contactless payment terminals at partner retail stores. Contactless payment terminals, which use NFC (near field communication) chips, are replacing traditional credit card readers for a growing number of retailers. Credit card issuers are pressuring retailers to upgrade, because contactless payment terminals can read the information stored on a chip inside a credit card, making it much harder for criminals to use counterfeit credit cards.
Isis encrypts credit card information and stores it in the phone’s SIM card. Phones with NFC chips can share this encrypted information with payment terminals. Currently there are 35 Android smartphones that work with Isis. The app does not yet work with the iPhone, but there are iPhone cases on the market that enable Isis. Isis says that it expects to roll out versions for iOS, BlackBerry and Windows devices this year.
Banks pay Isis when their cards are loaded into the mobile wallet. Retailers also pay when they use Isis to offer coupons or loyalty cards. “Working in partnership with Isis, we have been witness to the power of mobile payments and loyalty,” said Rick Kanemasu, who directs vending technology strategy for Coca-Cola’s North America Group. “More than one-third of active Isis mobile wallets users in Austin have loaded a My Coke Rewards card into their Wallet since our pilot began and 90% of these are new to the My Coke Rewards program.”
With three of the nation’s top four carriers behind it, Isis is clearly poised to dominate SIM-based mobile payments. But of course the venture faces serious competition from software-based mobile payments systems including Google Wallet and Apple’s Passbook. For now it seems likely that consumers will need to carry multiple digital wallets if they want to maximize their use of mobile payments.
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