Isis--the mobile payments joint venture from AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS)--finally rolled out nationwide, offering a new way for millions of customers to pay for goods and services via their mobile phones.
Isis is launching nationwide.
To begin using Isis services, consumers will need a secure element SIM card from their operator and a Near Field Communications-capable phone, along with the Isis smartphone app. From there, users must load either an eligible American Express or Chase credit card into their Isis wallet or leverage the Isis Cash Card inserted into every account.
AT&T said it supports 19 Isis-enabled smartphones, Verizon supports 15 models and T-Mobile has said it supports eight models. Customers who visit a carrier retail store to activate the Isis Mobile Wallet will receive hands-on support and education from store associates, Isis noted.
The Isis service uses NFC technology to enable customers to pay at point of sale terminals. Isis kicked off tap-and-pay consumer pilots in the fall of 2012, Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas.
It's unclear exactly how many retail stores across the country will support Isis. Isis said Aite Group, an independent research and advisory firm, estimates that hundreds of thousands of locations in the U.S. will have contactless-ready payment terminals by year-end.
In the past Isis has said that its contactless payment stations are available at 1.3 million retail locations, including 24 of the top 100 U.S. merchants. The Isis app will also support customer loyalty programs, but only those from merchants that have joined Isis.
To help drive interest, Isis is throwing in several promotions for potential users. Isis said users can use My Coke Rewards and Isis to get three free drinks at certain vending machines, and Jamba Juice is giving away 1 million free smoothies to Isis users. Additionally, Isis said purchases made from an American Express Serve account through the Isis wallet are eligible for a 20 percent discount (up to $200).
Analysts have said they are skeptical on whether Isis will catch on, even though it is backed by three of the four Tier 1 carriers. The service requires NFC technology, and does not support Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone (which is not NFC-capable). Isis has pledged to eventually bring support to Apple's iPhone via an NFC-enabled case. The company has also promised to support Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone and BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) directly, without a case.
Complicating Isis further are rival offerings. Google recently extended its Wallet mobile commerce platform to all smartphones running Android 2.3 and higher, eliminating a requirement that compatible devices must contain a NFC chip with a secure element. And the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) joint venture among Walmart, Target and other big-name retailers has said that it will launch its mobile wallet platform with barcodes and cloud-based technologies first, not NFC. Further, Capital One and Barclays, two of the credit card companies that participated in the Isis trials, are not part of the Isis nationwide launch.
Isis CEO Michael Abbott said at the MobileCon 2013 trade show in October that he believes mobile commerce could one day replace credit cards, but it will take a number of years for that transition to occur. Abbott said that the U.S. payment industry is worth $4 trillion today, mostly through credit cards. "It took 40 years to move it from cash to check. It will move but it will take a number of years."
- see this release
- see this CNET article
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