ISIS reported to launch tests Aug. 20; Google Wallet goes to the cloud

Pilots test expect to be launched in Austin, Salt Lake City

ISIS, a consortium of three wireless carriers, is reportedly set to launch its mobile payment pilot test on Aug. 20 in Austin and Salt Lake City.

Separately, ISIS competitor Google on Wednesday announced a cloud-based version of its Google Wallet, originally launched in September 2011, that will support credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

ISIS and Google both use near-field communication technology to allow smartphone owners to make payments at stores and for transportation. The ISIS consortium includes AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless.

The ISIS pilot launch date was reported July 27 by TMoNews.com, which also reported that ISIS smartphones for the trial will include the HTC Amaze 4G, Samsung Galaxy S II (but not the S III) and the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G.

An ISIS spokeswoman earlier this week said ISIS is "on track to launch in its pilot markets, Austin and Salt Lake City, this summer." However, she said there were no other details on timing to share.

Other reports have said the ISIS pilots will use Android and BlackBerry devices as well as the iPhone, equipped with a special sleeve that contains the NFC chip. The next-generation iPhone, which recent reports say could be launched on Sept. 12, is expected to use Bluetooth 4.0 for making mobile payments instead of NFC, according to a number of analysts.

The ISIS mobile payment system would be an alternative to Google Wallet, which first appeared 11 months ago and runs on six phones from Sprint and Virgin Mobile, as well as the Nexus 7 tablet.

Both systems are conceived to work with traditional credit cards, where a user attaches a credit card number to a payment app. A user initiates a credit card payment over NFC by tapping an NFC-ready phone to an NFC-ready terminal. (Google has also deployed a Google Prepaid Card that users can replenish with funds for payments.)

Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner, predicted this week that even though ISIS is working with credit card providers to back mobile payments, it is possible that the consortium could eventually set up the wireless carriers to provide consumer credit. That would mean that purchases made with a smartphone could appear on a wireless customer's phone bill, not a credit card bill.

Google's cloud-based approach is partly intended to eliminate some of the security concerns users have had with mobile payment technology. In its blog, Google noted that it has added a security feature to Google Wallet to make it possible to remotely disable a mobile wallet on a lost phone. The new Google Wallet app is available on Google Play.

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 mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile payments in Computerworld's Mobile Payments Topic Center.

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