After nearly two years of fits and starts and a lengthy trial program, mobile wallet service ISIS has announced it will be rolling out to national retailers by the end of the year. ISIS, which counts AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon among its backers, allows NFC-equipped smartphone users to pay for items in stores at NFC-enabled contactless checkout counters by simply tapping their phones against a payment terminal.
The system is similar in practice to Google Wallet and the RFID-equipped debit cards some banks provide their customers. To use their smartphones as wallets, users will download the ISIS app and create create ISIS profiles on their smartphones. The profiles then link directly to shoppers' bank accounts or participating credit cards. Purchases made using ISIS are processed instantly.
The ISIS initiative has certainly had its share of hiccups. The service was initially expected to make its national debut as part of a pilot program in early 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. That date was then pushed back to October 2012, while a second test city, Austin, Texas, was added.
According to ISIS, there are nearly 20 million NFC-enabled smartphones available on the market, and 35 devices available across AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon that support ISIS. And while ISIS is currently available only for Android, the company says it will begin offering the service for Apple's iOS, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone devices later this year. However, iOS users will need a special accessory, as the iPhone doesn't currently support NFC.
It's not just about mobile payments, though. ISIS will also allow companies to provide users with loyalty cards and special offers built directly into the app.
ISIS' biggest competitor in the mobile payment space is Google Wallet. Like ISIS, Google Wallet allows users to make contactless payments from their smartphones. Google Wallet also has the added benefit of Web-based interface that lets users purchase items from their favorite retail websites.
So where will you be able to use ISIS? According to the Aite Group, approximately 1.3 million retail locations will offer contactless payment terminals by the end of 2013.