It looks like Google Wallet will have some competition now, as Isis mobile wallet has launched in two trial markets, bringing the mobile payment system to select customers on three of the nation's largest carriers.
The joint venture of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, Isis uses NFC-equipped smartphones bundled with a special SIM card containing the Isis 'secure element, which protects credit card information, that allow customers to make mobile purchases at its hundreds of NFC-ready terminals.
Along with the launch of the service, which was slightly delayed from its original Sept. 22 roll out date, T-Mobile and Verizon announced which smartphones would be Isis-compatible, with T-Mo naming Samsung's latest flagship model, the Galaxy S III, as well as its predecessor, its S Relay 4G cousin, and the HTC Amaze 4G. While Big Red said the Droid Incredible 4G LTE by HTC currently supports Isis, the company will add the Droid RAZR HD and the RAZR MAXX HD to its list of Isis-ready smartphones later this week.
Last week AT&T confirmed that the Galaxy S III, the HTC One X, the Samsung Exhilarate, LG Escape and Samsung Rugby Pro would support the contactless payment system, while customers who already own one of these devices can simply insert the SIM cards into their phones at no extra cost, as can Verizon and T-Mobile subscribers.
As it takes on Google Wallet, which was introduced with some NFC smartphones over a year ago, Isis aims to have 20 models of handsets Isis-ready by the end of the year. Both services use NFC radio chips in phones to communicate with NFC terminals, providing customers with the ability to make purchases via their smartphone.
Yet, unlike its Internet giant-backed competitor, Isis does not accept debit or credit cards from any bank, restricting users to load cards from American Express, Capital One or Chase. Users must download the Isis Mobile Wallet app from the Google Play store before loading a credit card or cash via the Isis Cash card, which must be loaded separately.
While Isis has confirmed that a number of retailers, gas stations and transit providers will be equipped to handle NFC payments, several reports have shown that it may take five to eight years for smartphone-ready mobile commerce to catch on, as consumers still widely use credit cards, and even paper checks, to make payments.