The Isis mobile payment system has been in the works for a long time. The NFC-based service was first announced as a joint venture involving AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon back in 2010, and after hitting a slight delay in Sept. 2012, Isis finally began trials of its mobile payment program in Austin and Salt Lake City in Oct. 2012. Fast-forward 9 months, and it appears that the service is finally ready for primetime.
Isis announced today that plans to deploy its Isis Mobile Wallet program nationwide later this year. Utilizing an NFC chip that's built into a phone as well as a SIM card equipped with a secure element, Isis Mobile Wallet allows consumers to pay for goods, redeem coupons and use loyalty cards at participating retailers. Isis says that 25 of the top 100 national retailers have already rolled out or are in the process of rolling out the terminals necessary to accept contactless payments. During its 9-month pilot, Isis says that contactless acceptance in Austin and Salt Lake City nearly quadrupled to 4,000 locations.
When it comes to the smartphones necessary to use Isis, the company says that AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon currently offer a total of 35 handsets with Isis support. Isis promises that that number will grow going forward, with support for iPhone, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone coming later this year.
Isis is one of many different NFC-based mobile payment solutions that've popped up in recent years. One of the most notable services is Google Wallet, which debuted in May 2011 with partners like MasterCard and Sprint. Google Wallet support has been added to many Sprint devices and some Nexus hardware since then, but the service hasn't been able to gain much traction with consumers, likely due at least in part to the fact that the other 3 major U.S. carriers haven't exactly been as supportive of Wallet as Sprint has.
We'll have to wait for Isis's national rollout to see if it can fare any better in the mobile payment space than the services that've come before it. The fact that Isis is supported by 3 of the 4 major U.S. carriers will certainly help its case, but it will also need to educate consumers on how Isis Mobile Wallet works and what benefits it offers over physical cards. Isis hasn't said exactly when in 2013 it plans to begin expanding its service, but stay tuned and I'll give you a shout once more details are available.