The Isis joint venture of three wireless carriers announced the launch today of its new mobile wallet system in Salt Lake City and Austin using nine NFC-ready and Isis-ready smartphones sold by the carriers.
Consumers interested in using the mobile payments service need to purchase a smartphone at AT&T, Verizon Wireless or T-Mobile USA stores. The smartphones will include a SIM card containing the Isis "secure element" to protect credit card information, Isis said in a statement.
Those customers who already own one of the Isis-supported smartphones would need to insert one of the new SIM cards into their phones.
Users also need to download the Isis Mobile Wallet app from Google Play and load a credit card from American Express, Capital One or Chase (on both Visa or MasterCard) onto the Isis Mobile Wallet. Isis is also sponsoring an Isis Cash card in the wallet, which can be loaded with cash separately.
Isis has hundreds of locations where NFC-ready terminals are installed to allow contactless payments. A full list is at the Isis Web site. The launch was slightly delayed from an expected launch by Sept. 22.
T-Mobile named the Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy S II, the Galaxy S Relay 4G and HTC Amaze 4g as its Isis-ready smartphones.
A Verizon spokeswoman said Verizon supports the Droid Incredible 4G LTE by HTC on Isis, and will support the Droid Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD later this week.
AT&T said last week it will have five phones ready for Isis today, including the Galaxy S III. The others are the HTC One X, the Samsung Exhilarate, LG Espace and Samsung Rugby Pro.
Smartphone users who already own one of the Isis-supported phones will need to add an Isis-ready SIM card from their carrier, Isis said. The phone will also need the latest software version loaded on it.
All three carriers said the SIM card can be swapped out at no extra charge.
By the end of the year, 20 models of smartphones will be Isis-ready, Isis said.
The Isis Mobile Wallet will compete with the Google Wallet, introduced for use with some NFC smartphones a year ago.
Apple had been widely expected to include NFC technology in its latest iPhone 5. Instead, its Passport mobile wallet app uses barcodes on the phone presented to optical scanning terminals at retail locations to take advantage of coupons, tickets and boarding passes loaded on the iPhone.
A group of major retailers called the Merchant Customer Exchange is alos planning a mobile wallet system.
While wireless carriers, banks and credit card companies have widely promoted the mobile wallet concept, they also admit it is slow to catch on in the U.S. Osama Bedier, Google's vice president of wallet and payments, said last week that widespread adoption of NFC-ready smartphones and payments terminals will take three to five years.
A panel of experts at MobileCon IT, including an official at Barclaycard US, said it could take eight years at best for smartphone-ready mobile commerce to catch on with 25% of Americans.
The primary reason is that U.S. consumers still widely use credit cards and even paper checks for payments and aren't asking for mobile commerce alternatives.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.