Sometime this summer, people in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, will be able to pay for their purchases at participating merchants with a tap of their smartphone using a new mobile wallet. Chase, Capital One and Barclaycard have entered into agreements with Isis, the mobile commerce joint venture created by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, that will let consumers load their eligible cards into their Isis Mobile Wallet.
Handsets must be equipped with a near-field communication (NFC) chip so they can communicate with a merchant's contactless terminal. These terminals are already installed in more than 300,000 merchants worldwide and will be able to communicate with the tap-and-go payment feature built into Isis.
Isis is the newest addition to the fledgling field of mobile wallets. Last fall, Google launched Google Wallet, a mobile payment service that works with certain MasterCard credit cards issued by Citigroup. This system, however, works only with smartphones that are powered by Google's Android operating system. Visa also has a digital wallet in the works.
Isis has relationships with Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express payment networks and will work with iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. For consumers with smartphones that are not NFC-enabled, Isis is working with DeviceFidelity to add NFC functionality their mobile devices.
The ISIS Mobile Wallet will initially launch in Salt Lake City and Austin with a national rollout to follow. Isis will be accepted by any merchant with contactless point-of-sale terminals.
"Mobile commerce is more than a new way to pay; it's about extending the relationships consumers enjoy with their banks and merchants into a powerful and convenient new form factor," said Michael Abbott, the CEO of Isis.
The marketplace is ripe for these mobile payment systems, according to a new whitepaper from Parks Associates, a research company. More than a third (37 percent) of U.S. mobile phone owners find the mobile wallet concept appealing, with interest highest among younger households and smartphone owners, Parks said.
"For consumers, the most attractive benefit of mobile payment apps is they reduce the number of credit cards they have to carry," said Harry Wang, the director of mobile and health research at Parks. "The mobile phone is the main device people use to organize their lives, and mobile payment solutions offer significant conveniences, including organizing receipts and eliminating the need to carry cash."
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