October 17, 2013
SAN JOSE, Calif. — MobileCON — Verizon Wireless is getting ready to launch its first Isis mobile wallet services later this year.
Verizon Wireless , along with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. , created the Isis mobile payment venture back in November 2010. Several Verizon spokespeople in San Jose told Light Reading that the services will finally go nationwide "later this year" without giving an exact date.
To that end, Verizon was offering attendees at the show a Near Field Communications (NFC)-capable SIM card for Android phones. The mobile wallet application is available in the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Play store.
A spokesman for Isis says that the venture is working on "a sleeve" for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhones, which aren't NFC-enabled. Rival Samsung Corp. , meanwhile, has bet big on enabling its phones and tablets with NFC technology. (See Did Apple Just Kill NFC? and NFC to Come Standard in Sprint LTE Phones.)
NFC is a local area radio chip that can be hardwired into a phone or tablet or installed via a SIM card. It allows a user to make payments by tapping the phone onto a reader, much like a contactless credit card, and authenticates payment via a rolling PIN.
The Verizon news followed a keynote at MobileCON led by Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead, who asked: "Why haven't US consumers adopted the mobile wallet?"
The panel -- which included Isis CEO Michael Abbott; James White, the head of Jamba Juice; and Dan Schulman, group president of enterprise growth at American Express -- grappled with that question for the better part of an hour. Security, ease of use, and getting NFC equipment to retailers are all part of the issue, they concluded.
"We have to make plastic obsolete," Isis's Abbott told the crowd. The panel mostly concluded that this will take a very, very long time.
Abbott also stressed that users who wouldn't normally have access to "traditional financial services" and spend time and money waiting online at check cashing stores and cutting money orders to pay their bills would soon be able to do this via Isis mobile payment services service without needing a standard bank account. [Ed note: Of course, they will need access to a relatively expensive smartphone and data plan to get the Isis service.]
Jamba Juice was the flagship retailer at the keynote; the juice chain has decided to install NFC infrastructure at its stores. "We wanted to be at the tip of the spear as regards mobile payments," CEO James White explained at the keynote.
White also tried to allay some of the concern about mobile wallet security. He said that the pilot schemes had shown the retailer that Isis payments are "more secure than credit cards."
Isis's Abbott told the show that a nationwide rollout of the mobile wallet service is coming soon. Like Verizon, he didn't say exactly when either.
Interestingly, followers of my Twitter Feed had their own take on why the American consumer hasn't embraced the mobile wallet in the way they have smartphone cameras and wireless mapping services.
"Because major carriers like VZW blocked Google wallet from their devices until 2 months ago," wrote @EdWill86, a sentiment echoed by several others. It was clear that many felt that Google Wallet already is a viable mobile payments system in the US and were sour about Verizon blocking the service.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading
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