Businesses have been hearing about smartphone-based payments for years, but the contactless form of in-person commerce may now become more common. On Tuesday, the companies behind the Isis Mobile Wallet announced they will begin their long-awaited national roll-out later this year.
Isis, a joint venture between AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile U.S., and Verizon Wireless that was announced nearly three years ago, began a field test in Austin and Salt Lake City last fall, but only a few Android phones initially supported the payment technology. Other models with near-field communication (NFC) and a special SIM-based secure element -- components that make a device "Isis ready" -- were later added. The Isis group has said that it will support Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 and the iPhone sometime this year.
Industry observers have noted that the iPhone currently does not have NFC, adding another data point supporting speculation that the next iPhone, expected to be released within a few months, might have that technology built-in. It's possible that an accessory to the iPhone could provide the NFC support, but that would probably be too cumbersome.
About 20 million smartphones in the U.S. do feature NFC technology, representing 35 models from the three carriers backing Isis.
The payment technology allows users to pay, redeem coupons or present loyalty cards by simply tapping their smartphone against a retailer's reader. Michael Abbott, Isis chief executive officer, said in a statement that the nine-month testing period has "proven the power of an open platform, creating an ecosystem of literally hundreds of partners dedicated to making mobile commerce a reality."
Isis has not yet revealed its roll-out plans, although it has said that 25 of the top 100 national retailers support its payment technology, including Coca-Cola vending machines, Foot Locker, Macy's and others. The Isis joint venture cited a report by the Aite Group, which estimated there will be 1.3 million locations in the U.S. with contactless payment terminals by the end of this year.
Coca-Cola has said that more than one-third of the Isis mobile wallet users in the Austin trial loaded a My Coke Rewards card into their Wallet. Jamba Juice reported that its testing in Austin and Salt Lake City resulted in an increase in incremental foot traffic and the frequency of consumer store visits, as well as boosting the introduction of Jamba Juice to first-time customers. (continued...)