Three of the four major wireless carriers in the United States are supporting the release of the new Isis mobile-payment app, and in the process are enabling NFC-based payments on a wide scale to many wireless phones.
The three carriers are Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Currently, the Isis Mobile Wallet supports most Chase and American Express consumer credit cards, American Express Open small-business cards and the American Express Serve pre-paid card.
Isis is currently available for Android phones that support Near-Field Communication. A spokesperson for Isis told eWEEK that Isis will support other NFC-capable phones, including phones running Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10.
The spokesperson said that Isis will be releasing an NFC sleeve for the iPhone that will add Near-Field Communication to Apple’s product, something that Apple itself has not done. The spokesperson declined to provide a timeline for the new versions of Isis or for the iPhone NFC sleeve, beyond saying it would be “soon.”
Smartphone users can download the Isis Android app from Google Play onto a phone that supports NFC. Before you can use Isis, the phone must be equipped with an enhanced security SIM card, which all three carriers say will be available to customers at no extra charge.
Next, users go through a setup process to link one or more of their credit or debit cards to the device. Once that happens, they can use NFC to make payments at supporting merchants. Isis includes a frequently updated list of supporting businesses on their Website.
Unlike some mobile payment systems that have been announced in the past, Isis has one big difference—it’s supported by the wireless carriers. In addition, it’s on a path to be platform-agnostic. This means that a customer will be able to use Isis with most major carriers (besides Sprint) and with most recent smartphones models. The creation of an NFC solution for the iPhone will also go a long way in bringing acceptance to this mobile-payment solution.
In addition, Isis bills itself as being more secure than your real wallet, and indeed if it’s set up properly, it may be. It’s not hard for someone to run up thousands of dollars in charges using a stolen credit card before anyone notices. With Isis, each purchase requires entering a PIN as part of the authentication process. This means that if someone steals your phone, they still can’t use your Isis wallet unless you do something dumb such as putting the PIN on your phone where it can be seen.
Isis Carrier Support Will Add Momentum to Mobile Payment Adoption
Isis also made a smart decision by releasing its first app for Android phones. Many new Android smartphones already come with the built-in NFC support, so all that’s needed is the Isis app to make it work. Of course, mobile purchases also require the involvement of the carrier, which must provide the necessary link to enable the purchase. This is something that wireless carriers have rushed to deliver in the past. Now, with some assurance that Isis will be widely used, the carriers are on board.
A Verizon spokesperson told eWEEK that the company expects a lot of use of the Isis payment system in the coming weeks. “With the holidays just around the corner, and the biggest shopping day of the year—Black Friday—nearly upon us, Isis is sure to have an impact on payment choices this year,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to eWEEK.
Of course, a great deal depends on which stores you shop at. Toys “R” Us and Radio Shack appear to be early adopters of the Isis payment system as do some drug stores such as CVS. But it’s not clear that every store in these chains is on board, so check before you rush out.
Other deals for using Isis are available, such as a 20 percent rebate from American Express Serve. The sad news is that there’s a $200 limit on Serve mobile purchases, so you’re not going to be saving a bundle on that BMW you’ve been lusting after. Other rebates include things such as free soft drinks from Isis-enabled Coca-Cola vending machines or free smoothies from Jamba Juice.
For merchants, this is another way to make purchases easy, fast and secure. While it will require that merchants using Isis get their hands on a point-of-sale terminal that supports NFC, many such retail POS terminals are already out there and only need to have the NFC capability enabled. For businesses where high volume is important, such as coffee shops, the Isis system can speed up sales, especially when compared with using cash.
Whether Isis fulfills its promise remains to be seen. But for the first time, it seems to have all of the elements in place. The major carriers support it, two major credit card companies support it, and it works or will work on most relatively new mobile platforms. It’s a nearly perfect combination, and if all goes well, this effort should succeed.