Isis: Carrier alternative seeks to drain Google Wallet


Isis: friend of the downtrodden or protector of the dead?

Three major American phone carriers have a new mobile wallet system named Isis. AT&T (NYSE:T), T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ)—in cooperation with select banks—dubbed it after the evocative name of an Egyptian goddess, Isis.

Presumably, the carrier-sponsored solution is intended to banish Google Wallet to the desert. Isis, like most harried Egyptian goddesses, had to work multiple part-time jobs, often juggling conflicting responsibilities. On one hand, she was a friend of the downtrodden; on the other hand, protector of the dead.

In IT Blogwatch, intrepid bloggers dust off sands of uncertainty to translate Isis' hieroglyphics on the wall.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment, ably assisted by Stephen Glasskeys.


Stephen Lawson liaises with the facts:

The ISIS Mobile Wallet went live on Thursday, bringing NFC-powered shopping to consumers across the U.S. through a venture backed by three of the nation's top four carriers. ISIS lets consumers make purchases at special point-of-sale terminals using a smartphone with Near Field Communication a free enhanced SIM card and a free ISIS Android app.


[It] works at stores with contactless payment terminals, which are increasingly common. ... The venture said 25 of the top 100 U.S. retailers have deployed such terminals or are rolling them out.  MORE


Eric Zeman shares his E-Z precis:

For starters, Isis is only available to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers. These three network operators backed Isis from the start. Sprint is not a part of Isis, so Sprint customers have to stick with Google Wallet or other mobile payment services.


Not all phones are supported, but the list of compatible pretty good. For example, about a dozen phones sold by AT&T [and T-Mobile] are already good to go. At Verizon, the LG G2, Motorola Moto X, Droid Maxx, Droid Mini, and Droid Ultra all make the cut. Each carrier has its own version of the Isis mobile application.


The iPhone is not yet supported [as it] doesn't include NFC. Isis is preparing a sleeve for the iPhone [with] NFC that will talk to the handset. If you meet all these criteria (carrier, bank, handset), then you're welcome to sign up for Isis and start making mobile payments.  MORE


For Karl Bode well leaves his Marx: [You and Glasskeys are both fired -Ed.]

Late last year [carriers] started trials of Isis, their...platform that turns your smartphone into a debit card. Isis has seen mixed reviews, with many of the vendors supposedly participating in the limited trial never having heard of the service. That should change on news that Isis is now launching nationwide.


Carriers have taken deserved heat for blocking Google Wallet in order to give Isis time to finish remains unclear if [they] will find success in breaching the mobile payment market. The vast majority of users traditionally haven't been interested in such services. Fewer still may companies so cozy with the NSA yet another data set to peruse.   MORE


Observations by Sarah Perez, dispenser of troubling news: [Are you still here? -Ed.]

The cross-carrier initiative has been in pilot testing...for over a year, and has seen some changes during those trials. Initially, the service had planned to take a cut of transactions across its network, but now charges service fees to companies using the platform instead.


Isis has stumbled on its way to launch already - Capital One pulled out of pilot tests in September. ... The carriers have also generated negative sentiment among potential early taking steps to block competing initiatives, like Google Wallet, from launching on NFC smartphones.


The Isis app is currently poorly reviewed on Google Play...with the AT&T version sporting one-and-a-half stars at the low-end and the T-Mobile version with two-and-a-half stars. ... There are a number of complaints calling the app “useless,” “****,” “garbage,” and Isis “greedy,” which does not bode well.  MORE


Popping his stack, Mark Hachman throws an exception:

[There's] a bit of a thrill in simply pulling out your phone, tapping it against a reader, and walking away with a double cheeseburger. If only signing up for ISIS, the carriers' answer to Google Wallet, was that easy.


ISIS supports only a small subset of credit cards. And though it's owned by the major carriers, you can't actually charge a purchase to your phone bill. And it doesn't work on iOS. So ISIS, in its current form, is half a solution to a problem many really don't have.


If you'd like to use a Visa or a Discover card, for example, or pull from your bank account, you'll need to sign up for a Serve card from within the app. ... Google Wallet originally shipped with an electronic version of a prepaid Google Wallet debit card that needed to be loaded via a credit [or debit] card. Serve is much the same. But I recall the Wallet process as extremely simple, while the Serve signup reminds me of applying for a credit card. ... Serve asks for your birthday and Social Security number, as well as your address and other information.


And after all that, Serve failed to complete the registration process, throwing an error message that cited technical difficulties.  MORE


A happy Matthew Miller pours his heart out over free beverages:

In addition to using your connected credit card or bank account, Isis is offering several incentive free offers to generate customers for the system. Coke is giving away free drinks in some vending machines and Jamba Juice is giving away 1 million free smoothies. Even better, purchases made through an American Express Serve account are eligible for a 20 percent discount, up to $200.


I may have to visit my local T-Mobile store and get my SIM back into my HTC One to test this out soon.  MORE


Meanwhile, Shawn Knight rides in and finds a shiny new competitor:

Y Combinator-backed startup Coin is taking a new approach to mobile payments. Where others like Isis and Google Wallet are hell-bent on transforming your smartphone into a digital wallet, Coin is content to leave your phone alone and instead focus on what you already use to pay for things: a plastic card.


Coin is just that, a universal card that replaces all of your existing credit cards. ... The idea is that you can use Coin to carry around all of these cards without the hassle of physically having them all on you at once.  MORE

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