AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless on Monday launched a pilot program in the Salt Lake City area aimed at getting Utah consumers to embrace the idea of paying for merchandise with the wave of their mobile phones instead of presenting a credit or debit card.
The program, which the three wireless carriers are operating under a joint venture known as Isis, also includes Austin, Texas. It is part of a major push by the credit card and online payment industry to get U.S. consumers and businesses to adopt mobile phone payment systems.
The Isis Mobile Wallet system operates using computer chips imbedded in smartphones. Wave the phone in front of a small terminal at a store’s checkout counter, and the chip relays purchasing information to the merchant, and money is automatically deducted from the customer’s selected credit card or an Isis cash card that comes with every wallet.
But there are stipulations.
The three wireless carriers combined have only 10 types of smartphones in the hands of consumers that are capable of interacting with the payment system. And to use the system, those mobile phone owners will first have to go to one of the carriers’ stores to get a free SIM card installed.
The phones that can be used are the HTC Incredible 4G, Motorola Razr HD, Motorola Razr MAXX HD, Samsung Galaxy S2, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Relay S 4G, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate, LG Escape and the Samsung Rugby Pro.
The system, which will launch elsewhere later, will work only with Android phones, which are based on the Google operating system. However, Isis plans to offer for sale to iPhone users an add-on case ($40-$50) with a chip installed capable of interacting with its terminals.
Ryan Hughes, chief marketing officer for Isis, said in a statement that the launch in Salt Lake City and Austin represents a milestone for Isis and the mobile commerce industry. “With as many as 20 Isis-ready handsets headed to market by year’s end, we are experiencing an unprecedented level of support for NFC (near field communications) and consumer choice.”
The system debuted Monday with 30 local merchants signed on as “partners.” They included Maverik, Deseret Book and Barbacoa Mexican Grill.
The system had earlier been deployed for Utah Transit Authority riders on all of its buses and trains through use of card. From now until Jan. 31, consumers will be able to ride free on all UTA buses, Trax and Frontrunner trains, and Frontrunner vehicles, by using an Isis-enabled phone.
How to get started with the Isis “Mobile Wallet”
1) Visit an AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA or Verizon Wireless retail store in Salt Lake City to receive a secure element SIM card.
2) Download the Isis Mobile Wallet application from Google Play.
3) Load an eligible American Express, Capital One or Chase credit card into the Isis Mobile Wallet, or use an Isis cash card that comes with every wallet.
4) Make purchases by tapping your Isis-enabled phone. A list of participating merchants and locations can be found at www.paywithisis.com.