Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA finally launched their mobile payments venture this morning in Austin and Salt Lake City. Isis, which had been slated to go live over the summer but was delayed, uses NFC to power transactions at “hundreds of locations” in the two cities.
Isis clearly has a lot going for it: In addition to its strong carrier backing, it’s supported by a relatively wide variety of popular smartphones (unlike, say, Google Wallet). It’s tightly integrated with American Express, Capital One and Chase, and retail partners at launch include high-profile vendors such as 7 Eleven and McDonald’s.
But consumers have to jump through a couple of hoops to use Isis. After downloading the app, they must either tie their credit cards to the system or use an Isis Cash card that must be pre-loaded with funds. Those aren’t huge hurdles, to be sure, but they’re not nearly as easy as using cash or the credit cards they’re already carrying. So I think Isis’s success will hinge on the coupons, loyalty programs and other promotional goodies the app delivers to consumers. If those offers don’t bring real value to consumers, users will have no real reason (aside from the novelty factor) to change the way they pay for things at the retail counter.