Three of the four major wireless carriers in the United States are supporting the release of the new Isis mobile-payment app, and in the process are enabling NFC-based payments on a wide scale to many wireless phones.
The three carriers are Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Currently, the Isis Mobile Wallet supports most Chase and American Express consumer credit cards, American Express Open small-business cards and the American Express Serve pre-paid card.
Isis is currently available for Android phones that support Near-Field Communication. A spokesperson for Isis told eWEEK that Isis will support other NFC-capable phones, including phones running Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10.
The spokesperson said that Isis will be releasing an NFC sleeve for the iPhone that will add Near-Field Communication to Apple's product, something that Apple itself has not done. The spokesperson declined to provide a timeline for the new versions of Isis or for the iPhone NFC sleeve, beyond saying it would be "soon."
Smartphone users can download the Isis Android app from Google Play onto a phone that supports NFC. Before you can use Isis, the phone must be equipped with an enhanced security SIM card, which all three carriers say will be available to customers at no extra charge.
Next, users go through a setup process to link one or more of their credit or debit cards to the device. Once that happens, they can use NFC to make payments at supporting merchants. Isis includes a frequently updated list of supporting businesses on their Website.
Unlike some mobile payment systems that have been announced in the past, Isis has one big difference—it's supported by the wireless carriers. In addition, it's on a path to be platform-agnostic. This means that a customer will be able to use Isis with most major carriers (besides Sprint) and with most recent smartphones models. The creation of an NFC solution for the iPhone will also go a long way in bringing acceptance to this mobile-payment solution.
In addition, Isis bills itself as being more secure than your real wallet, and indeed if it's set up properly, it may be. It's not hard for someone to run up thousands of dollars in charges using a stolen credit card before anyone notices. With Isis, each purchase requires entering a PIN as part of the authentication process. This means that if someone steals your phone, they still can't use your Isis wallet unless you do something dumb such as putting the PIN on your phone where it can be seen.