Questions abound as Isis mobile wallet trials begin

After nearly two years of talk, three major U.S. wireless carriers are about to kick off the Isis joint mobile wallet venture next week.

Isis is a mobile payment program based on Near-Field Communications (NFC) technology that has the support of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. On October 22, Isis begins field trials in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah, according to TechCrunch. The service will allow users to store their credit, debit, and loyalty cards on NFC-enabled smartphones, and pay at retail stores by tapping their phones against Isis-supported terminals.

Here’s what we know about Isis so far:

  • The service requires a special SIM card and a supported smartphone. There will be roughly 20 such phones by the end of the year. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are all on board.
  • Isis will support American Express, Capital One and Chase Freedom credit cards, along with reloadable Isis Cash cards.
  • The map of supported retailers shows 335 locations in Salt Lake City and 356 locations in Austin. McDonald’s and 7-Eleven account for many of the supported retailers, but other national chains and local businesses are on board as well. Retailers who support Isis will have one of several logos on their payment terminals.
  • On the security front, users will be able to remotely suspend their wallets by phone or by visiting Isis’ Website. Wallets are stored in a secure element on the phone, and locked behind a four-digit PIN.

These symbols let shoppers know which retailers are participating in field tests for the Isis mobile payment system.

Most of that information has been available for months. Still, many of the finer details about Isis remain a mystery for now. We don’t know which phones will be supported or whether users of existing NFC phones will need to swap their SIM cards. While Isis will support loyalty cards and present special offers to users, it’s unclear which retailers will offer these programs.

Right now, there’s a T-Mobile Android app available for Isis, but it remains unclear when other carriers’ phones be ready with similar offerings. And what about NFC-enabled Windows Phone 8 handsets?

We also don’t yet know the timetable for Isis in other cities. The service is already behind schedule, as the pilot launch was originally set for the first half of 2012.

Isis promises more details when it launches Monday, so perhaps answers to those questions will come into greater focus then. In the meantime, the mobile wallet remains more hype than substance in the United States.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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