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Isis Adds 600K NFC Wallets in 30 Days

Remember NFC? It was the overhyped abbreviation du jour before NFV pushed it aside. Well, now NFC operators are claiming real progress in the US, as Tier 1 operator joint venture Isis says it has activated 600,000 new mobile wallets in the past 30 days.

Isis is the joint venture among AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless , T-Mobile US Inc. , and a number of credit card companies and financial institutions promoting Near Field Communication-based mobile payments. (See NFC Payments Forecast Scaled Down.)

It got off to a slow start, but it launched nationwide in November 2013. Now the company says it has activated an average of 20,000 new Isis Wallets per day in the past 30 days, twice the growth rate it had in the prior month. The Wallet is preloaded on 14 Android smartphones, but 68 mobile devices across the three Tier 1 operators also support it. On the iPhone, it requires the purchase of an additional Isis Ready case with an NFC antenna and a Secure Element micro SD card. (See Isis Opens Its Mobile Wallet Nationwide and Verizon Ready to Flash Isis Mobile Wallet.)

These are the only numbers Isis is revealing so far, although one partner, Jamba Juice, also offered up some stats. The smoothie chain has been offering free drinks for those who pay with Isis Wallet. It has seen a month-over-month growth in Wallet use of more than 50%, with more than 270,000 customers cashing in on their free smoothies in the first quarter. It expects to hit 1 million by the fall.

Isis says it will continue to broaden its ecosystem of partners, which today includes Wells Fargo and American Express, as well as continuing to craft offers to get customers comfortable with paying via their phones.

Why this matters
With few other details, it may be too soon to declare Isis a success, but the company is at least demonstrating traction for its mobile wallet in the US. [Ed. note: Or it shows the lengths people will go for a free smoothie?]

The operators, however, are still experimenting with mobile payments and what works (if anything). Most have other offers outside of Isis. For example, T-Mobile announced a mobile money service for the unbanked in the US earlier this year, and AT&T recently launched a Square Inc. competitor for small businesses.

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— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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sarahthomas1011 5/16/2014 | 11:24:41 AM
Re: Why the growth spurt? My guess is there aren't many active Isis users. There aren't enough partners yet, for one thing. Those numbers would be interesting, but I doubt we'll see them.
danielcawrey 5/15/2014 | 11:41:50 PM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Interesting read. I had been wondering what had happened with Isis, and based on these numbers there is now some traction. 

I think that there is major potential for smartphones to replace wallets, and this is what the operators are hoping for, too. But it is important to remember that the activation of these wallets does not necessarily mean that people will actually use them. Only the test of time will prove that. 
Sarah Thomas 5/15/2014 | 7:07:25 PM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Well it's only one free smoothie per person so it'll top out eventually. If it were free smoothies for life, that'd be a different story entirely.
kq4ym 5/15/2014 | 1:25:09 PM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Promotions like the Jamba Juice deal is certainly one way to get publicity and more signups. I would expect this promotional trend to continue which should bring lots more thousands of users to the newly joined 600K NFC wallets.
Sarah Thomas 5/15/2014 | 12:47:36 PM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Ah, thanks Mordyk. That's good to know. The actual total users and monthly/weekly/daily usage stats will be the most interesting.
Sarah Thomas 5/15/2014 | 12:46:43 PM
Re: Why the growth spurt? But if you have an iPhone, you'll have to buy an extra case for it, so kinda outweighs the money saved on your free smoothie...
Sarah Thomas 5/15/2014 | 12:45:43 PM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Good news -- you don't have to! It works on AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. Just not Sprint.
MordyK 5/15/2014 | 9:58:38 AM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Just so long as you're not basing your investment decision and credibility on it...
mendyk 5/15/2014 | 9:43:49 AM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Sirius XM has played the same game for years with its subscriber numbers. Few figure it out, and fewer still seem to care.
MordyK 5/15/2014 | 9:40:37 AM
Re: Why the growth spurt? Exactly MendyK! The numbers could be pre-installed, accidentally clicked and installed, registered but never even entered a card or a test transaction and never used again.

I would look at the numbers that they're using internally, because these numbers sound just a bit too good to be true for an app in which nothing changed but the numbers.
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