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Carriers' Joint Venture, Isis, Rolling Out Mobile Wallet

By Barry Levine
October 19, 2012 10:26AM

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The Isis collaborative effort began in late 2010, and has been building the alliances, technology and infrastructure needed to support a mobile wallet that offers e-credit cards, loyalty programs and special offers. But Isis' competitors have not been standing still. Paypal is moving forward, and Google Wallet now accepts most credit cards.

Debut of the Isis mobile wallet system is scheduled to begin the week of October 22. That's when the three largest wireless carriers in the U.S., who are working together on Isis, will launch the new mobile e-commerce system in its first two cities.

AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have chosen Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City to be the launchpad cities. Several leading retailers -- including Sports Authority, Foot Locker, 7-Eleven, and McDonalds -- are aboard, as are credit and debit card partners American Express, Chase and Capital One.

Goddess of Magic

As an Egyptian goddess, Isis' portfolio included being in charge of magic, but even magicians need a mobile device in order to use a mobile wallet. At the moment, the specific compatible devices are not yet known.

Jaymee Johnson, Isis head of marketing, said in a statement that "as many as 20 Isis Ready handsets are expected to be in the market" by year's end, but more details will not be available until next week. There is also no information yet on the rollout schedule.

The Isis collaborative effort began in late 2010, and has been building the alliances, technology and infrastructure needed to support a mobile wallet that offers e-credit cards, loyalty programs and special offers.

In the meantime, competing payment systems have not exactly been standing still. Paypal, owned by eBay, is moving forward with its plans, and Google announced last month that its Wallet is accepting the full range of credit cards -- Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

Google's offering currently has more than two dozen cooperating national retailers and over 200,000 retail locations. Over the summer, Google released a new cloud-based version of the Wallet app.

In addition to giants in this arena, new vendors are scrambling to gain ground. One of the most visible is Square, started by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

'Walked into Cheers'

Square says it has more than 2 million users and an annual transaction volume nearing $2 billion. Starbucks has announced it will begin to accept Square-based mobile payments, so that customers can pay for all that coffee by holding up their phones to the reader at the counter. The coffee shop chain also has had its own pay-by-phone app, which it said is handling a million transactions annually, but is transitioning to Square.

As if getting rid of cash and plastic cards wasn't enough, Square has announced that it plans to get rid altogether of that arm movement of holding up your phone. The vendor said it is working with Starbucks to automatically detect your smartphone via GPS when you walk into a store, and then connect with the app.

When you arrive at the counter, your Square identification will appear on the register, ready to be charged once you give your name. No effort required.

We asked Current Analysis' Avi Greengart if mobile payments are beginning to take off. He answered that the technology is "gaining traction very slowly," but added that the biggest question is whether consumers want it.

"What are the consumer benefits," he asked, that outweigh using a piece of plastic? Greengart noted that, although it remains to be seen, those benefits could include "speeding up payment" via phoneless, GPS payment of the kind that Square is developing, or integrating the wallet with retailer-specific coupons, such as in Google's implementation.

With these benefits, he said, walking into a participating retailer could make you feel so special and welcomed that "you feel like you just walked into Cheers."

Tell Us What You Think



Posted: 2012-10-20 @ 12:49pm PT
Great, now perhaps Verizon will finally unblock installation of the competing Google Wallet application for Samsung Galaxy S III owners, though I've already sent my complaint to the FCC about this practice that seems to violate the rules of their block spectrum purchase.


Posted: 2012-10-19 @ 3:11pm PT
I like the wallet payment, but the GPS method, I would think, would open us up to being charged wrongfully. Let's say I pick up a mug at Starbuck's to admire it, but then put it back down. Would I be charged accidentally for it?! It will be interesting to see how this technology evolves.


Posted: 2012-10-19 @ 2:30pm PT
Being forced to use isis on tmo really gives me a bad taste. I would use Google wallet right now if my carrier wouldn't block it so that I will use theirs. Seems unfair to me.


Posted: 2012-10-19 @ 2:20pm PT
I wish people would stop calling ISIS a Google Wallet competitor. With Sprint being the only major carrier that is not blocking the application, you can't even call it competition.

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