After having its Android app leak late yesterday for T-Mobile, Isis has officially confirmed its soft launch timeline for its long planned and long delayed mobile payment trials in Salt Lake City, Utah and Austin, Texas since being originally planned for launch and testing earlier this Summer.
Isis is the long-planned mobile payment initiative spearheaded by Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T which was first announced jointly by all three carriers in 2010 and was devised as the first inter-carrier mobile payment solution that would also be supported by major credit card issuers and merchants. However, since the initial announcement, the initiative has been plagued with long-term delays due to carrier and adoption issues as well as hardware development issues.
Now that the initiative is about to get underway, what makes this nearly identical to Google’s competing solution in Wallet, is the integration of NFC. However unlike Google’s implementation, which follows internationally recognized NFC standards, Isis requires the use of a security element embedded into a new SIM card for the functionality and NFC tag for an additional layer of security on top of any embedded NFC hardware present in a given smartphone. The SIM cards will first be rolled out by T-Mobile ahead of next week’s official trial launch for those phones without embedded NFC hardware, though Verizon and AT&T have yet to confirm their status on participation for the trial period.
This also explains Verizon’s active blocking of native Wallet functionality found in its version of the Galaxy Nexus, despite repeated claims that its hardware could not support Google Wallet. By year’s end, 20 handsets are expected to be either released or updated to support Isis mobile payments, with many including NFC hardware.
Unfortunately, Isis may portend even bigger issues for NFC adoption in the US, as the communication standard and mobile payments using NFC has yet to make any significant headway due to lack of large-scale adoption by national retailers, evident since the first attempted trials spearheraded by Nokia in 2007. Without the large scale adoption by national retailers, NFC-based mobile payments risk becoming yet another failed experiment by wireless carriers in order to drive additional revenue.
With the key issues hampering large-scale NFC-based mobile payment systems also centering on competing standards, it’s now up to the carriers to convince customers that there is a reason to use mobile payment systems. While the goal may be to emulate Japan and Hong Kong in terms of NFC adoption, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will realize that such adoption rates require compelling reasons to use mobile NFC outside of mobile payments.