05
Mar
isis

Mobile payment providers. Yeah, I'm already getting a little sleepy thinking about them, too. Let's face it, they're not the most exciting topic in the world, but whenever we talk about how people spend their money, you know there are lots of companies out there eagerly eying the potential of various new payment technologies with great interest. Among such companies are cell phone carriers, and the reason why should be obvious: smartphones with NFC are ideal platforms for next-generation payment systems.

We know Google has already figured this out. Wallet was launched back in September of 2011, though only on the Sprint Nexus S 4G, and only with MasterCard as a launch partner. Like most of Google's products, Wallet started out more as an experiment than a full-fledged mobile payments powerhouse. The limited handset and credit card support remain - the Nexus S 4G on Sprint and the Galaxy Nexus GSM version remain the only officially supported Wallet handsets.

A partnership for payment processing with Visa was announced way back in September, yet support for Visa cards has seemingly gone MIA, with some speculating it may finally launch at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. This would be a fantastic opportunity for Google to show off its mobile payment service to an international audience, but speculation is speculation - the company hasn't said word one about the Visa partnership in nearly 6 months.

Google is also apparently working on similar partnerships with Discover and American Express, but news on this front has gone similarly silent. Reports indicated Google was buying up thousands of special VeriFone payment terminals for Wallet, though the only units I've seen have been of the VIVO variety, such as the one below, found at every Peet's Coffee location.

google-wallet1

It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for Wallet since launch, either. Recently, security scares (whether justified or not) caused Google to suspend prepaid card provisioning temporarily on Wallet, and generated a whole pile of negative press about the integrity of the service. Just this morning, users of the Wallet on rooted Android handsets started receiving notifications advising them that their handset was "unsupported," and that Google "strongly discourage[s]" the use of Wallet on rooted devices. At this point, it's unclear if Google plans to altogether prevent the use of Wallet on rooted phones, or if this warning is simply a "proceed at your own risk" kind of thing.

So, What Does Isis Have To Do With This?

A lot. In fact, Isis executives are probably laughing it up right now at Google's security snafu (if you could call it that), because there's no doubt that this very public gaff will quickly become a talking point for the company's marketing department. If you haven't heard of Isis, that's probably no surprise - the company doesn't actually have any publicly available products yet (the first supported phones are coming in mid-2012, supposedly).

What it does have is $100 million in promised financial backing from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile. You can probably see where this is going. Isis will provide NFC (near-field communication) credit and prepaid debit payments, special offers, and loyalty discounts. Sounding familiar? I hope so, because it's pretty much Google Wallet sans the whole Google part.

Remember that whole issue about "technical difficulties" getting Google Wallet to work on the Verizon Galaxy Nexus? And Google's response, essentially, that those "difficulties" were a load of bull? Let's be frank: the whole reason those "difficulties" arose is because Verizon likely has a very explicit arrangement with Isis not to support alternative mobile payment providers. It's business, and while Verizon's public response to the lack of Wallet support was some poorly-disguised PR maneuvering and generally kind-of-a-dick-move, it's easy to see their motivations.

This all leads us to today's news: Isis just announced they've partnered with VeriFone, Ingenico, VIVOtech, and Equinox Payments to ensure that all four companies' existing and future products will be Isis-ready.

VeriFone posses almost a quarter of the market for point of sale terminals (credit card processing systems). Ingenico? Yeah, it's even bigger, controlling 26% of the market, and is the largest point of sale terminal provider in the world. VIVOtech accounts for 75% of all touchless (NFC) payment systems out there. Equinox Payments has hundreds of thousands of terminals throughout the United States. You can see why this is a big deal, then, considering all these companies just promised to implement Isis' technology into all of their future products, as well as many of their current ones.

They've also already got Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover onboard for processing. And Chase, Capital One, and Barclay's for specific card support. Even Motorola has agreed to work with Isis to support the system on their handsets. That's going to be a little awkward for Moto (assuming the deal isn't terminated).

At launch, Isis estimates it will cover 100 million card holders in the US alone. That's kind of a lot.

Hell, the app actually looks kind of cool:

isis-mobile-wallet-screenshot1-536x1024

Let's just say this: Google Wallet better gets its act together before Isis goes live, if it wants any chance of winning the mobile payments war. Right now, Isis has more partners (by far), three of the four major carriers making up the vast majority of the smartphone market with a large financial stake in it, and a golden opportunity to make marketing bread out of Google's "security" problem.

I'm cheering for you, Wallet, but you better start making some moves before it's too late.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://rojekti.fi/ Veeti

    "Hell, the app actually looks kind of cool"

    Non-standard action bar. Bottom tabs.

    Seriously?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com David Ruddock

      I'm sorry, I wasn't aware "cool" and "follows the Android 4.0 style guide" were mutually exclusive.

      • http://rojekti.fi/ Veeti

        It doesn't matter how "cool" the app looks if it's completely out of place otherwise.

        • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

          This app has been in development since long before ICS even existed, it's no surprise it looks the way it looks, especially when demoed on a non-ICS device.

          I don't think it looks cool. I don't think it looks bad either. It just looks OK.

        • Matt P

          I believe you meant to say "It doesn't matter TO ME how 'cool' the app looks"... But I could be wrong.

        • http://rojekti.fi/ Veeti

          Things like "no tabs at the bottom" aren't an ICS thing, though. Tabs have always been at the top in Android. (Excluding HTC's nonsense).

          > I believe you meant to say "It doesn't matter TO ME how 'cool' the app looks"... But I could be wrong.

          Looking cool also means that an app fits in and remains consistent with the rest of the OS. For example, slapping the UI from an iOS or WP7 app to an Android app isn't going to work out very well, even if the interface looks good on the platform it was designed for.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

      The increasingly common fanboy adherence to ICS look and style is getting crazy.

      There's more than one way to look good. It's true that the single screenshot of the app is pretty consistent with the typical look of an iOS app...but no matter your feelings about Apple and the iPhone, it's worth pointing out that the style guidelines for iOS are actually really good (in other words, hate the player, not the game).

      Admittedly the color choices are far from original, they still look good, the layout isn't unnecessarily busy, everything makes sense, it's all in a logical flow, and it's even laid out very well for the times when you're more likely to quickly use it one-handed vs. the times when you are entering data. So, speaking as a professional who's worked on this sort of thing, David is right, it looks kinda cool.

      On a separate note. I hate that they are taking a fairly monopolistic approach to keeping Google from entering the market fairly. I wouldn't want to pick a side if ISIS partners weren't actively doing something evil.

  • Citrus Rain

    I'm not going to even try to get on board any smartphone payment system until it gets mainstream enough.

    I wonder if Japan's version of this type of payment are mobile provider-to-payment provider dependant? Because I don't see the point in using it if they're going to be like that.

  • Nastybutler

    I don't trust Isis as long as Mallory Archer is in charge.

    • skitchbeatz

      I see what you did there...

  • Mark

    Interesting. Well Google's been dragging their heels on Wallet for some time now, dropping the ball left and right. I think this may be a life lesson they're going to have to learn the hard way as Isis gives them the beat-down. For all my love of Google and their products, their support and community interaction sucks. Isis is going to take a huge chunk out of Mobile Payments and Google Wallet will end up fighting an up-hill battle.

  • caliber

    Good.

    I love Google and all, but if Google won't let me install and use Wallet on my NFC smartphone, then maybe it's about time they got beaten by someone who will.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      I'm fairly sure you're talking about the LTE Nexus here, in which case Google isn't the issue - Verizon is, as it wants to push Isis. The lack of support for Wallet from the 3 major carriers in the U.S., and in fact what I'd call the opposite of support, is pretty much a nail in Wallet's coffin. I don't see it surviving and going mainstream. It'll be Bluray vs HD-DVD all over, and Wallet ain't it.

      • Kevin

        The GSM Nexus S was also left out.

        • Ravi Shah

          not anymore. you can download wallet on att gsm nexus from the market

  • WilsonCH

    Google doesn't seem to worried about it. I'm not worried about it. I'll live if I can't beam NFC payments. My card works fine, and is just as easy to use. Eventually, I may get around to getting a handset with the tech, and then I'll try it, but I won't go get a handset to use the tech. It's just not that big of a deal.

  • Lewissd

    competition is always good for the consumers.

    • Jason

      Not when the competition blocks market access.

  • Yath

    It makes me wondering will this become international. As it only has support from three major US carriers so wouldn't other countries opt for Google Wallet over ISIS?

    • David Ruddock

      Isis has plans to go international - those three major carriers are just launch partners. Remember, Verizon Wireless' majority stakeholder is Vodafone.

  • http://www.unlocktheinbox.com wpfn

    If this ISIS is that good, why isn't google looking to purchase?

    • David Ruddock

      It would be impossible, the carriers are the major investors, and they'd never sell to Google - that would defeat the entire purpose of what they're doing: trying to keep Google out of the mobile payment landscape on their networks.

      • Yathushab

        TBh I think that Google will make a move with mobile payment. Cause they introduced NFC so early on it would not make sense for them not to make use of it. Also i think they may have been awaiting for manufacturers to release phones with NFC (this year's line seems to show that). So maybe with many flapship phones becoming supported with wallet it should sway potential clients who were not interested before?

  • Ryan

    So the article talks about how Isis is bad for GW but doesn't say exactly why that makes any difference. The article is written from the perspective that Wallet is better than Isis but never really says why. I can say that having both is better than just one. In that aspect I can see Isis as being worse because it looks to block Wallet but that's not really a good enough answer.

    • David Ruddock

      I never commented on one being a superior solution, and that is definitely not the point of this article. The point is, this is an Android website, Android is owned by Google, Wallet is an Android-exclusive product many people are interested in, and this company (Isis) may kill that product.

      I think people would be interested in learning about Wallet's competitors, particularly the one that looks very much like it will be most widely accepted and supported, especially with major carriers pretty obviously colluding to keep Google Wallet off their handsets in favor of Isis. Google Wallet could very well be worse in terms of implementation than Isis, but that's not what this article is about - it's a focused analysis of the mobile payments landscape on Android, and the two major players therein.

  • ksw

    I see this as a second thing where tons of people are blaming Google, and few of them actually know what is going on. People are complaining to Google that they don't have ICS, or even Gingerbread on their phones. Google doesn't control that. The manufacturers and the carriers do.
    Same thing with Wallet. No carriers want to buy into it, and none of the financial institutions want to partner up on it, nor do the companies who run the terminals and clearinghouses. They all want their advanced cut, and they want to cut Google out of it. It is their money party, and they don't want any of the Riff-Raff in on it. Google is being put out on the doorstep, scratching at the door. It looks like MasterCard is at least feeding Google hors'deurves for tips/information/metrics/tricks, while silently grabbing a mallet from his friends to clock him with.

    Google should have pressed harder from the beginning for a standardized format, and pushed that forth with great pressure. However, that would have gotten them Federal scrutiny, which they are trying to avoid (due to high-powered lobbyists from other groups trying to bring them under the gun). This has turned into a big political game, where Google just wanted to bring a good service, and advance technology, but instead is getting shafted by other groups who want to control it all.

  • Mgamerz

    Cause letting AT&T handle my credit cards is exactly what I want.

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody Toombs

      Completely incorrect statement. They are simply investing in a company that will be doing that...they still don't get to touch any more info than you already gave them when signing a contract or making a payment.

  • Jonathan K. Wong

    Oooh competition. This is good news so Googl really better act now

  • Matt

    About time. I bought a GSM Galaxy Nexus out of contract for T-Mobile. There is absolutely no reason why it "Isn't supported on your device." Not only that, really wanting to be a techie Googlite, I downloaded the APK, and guess what, I can't use my Visa.

    Come on, Google. You were advertising this with the Nexus S, and there are still only a very small handful of phones that can use it, AND THE LATEST FLAGSHIP DEVICE ISN'T ONE OF THEM.

  • Freak4Dell

    Didn't we all see this coming? I mean, when Google Wallet launched with support for a mere two cards (one of them being Google's card), it was pretty clear that it wouldn't be a major player until that was rectified. Whether it's Google's fault or not, they've gotta get that fixed before they can really go anywhere with this whole mobile payment thing.

    As for the equipment, I didn't realize equipment was specific to one service. I figured once the terminal had NFC support, it would be able to read off of any device that had NFC. Making it proprietary pretty much guarantees that no competition will ever come into the market.

    Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, I don't really care right now. I have no desire to use this form of payment (I can pull out my card and swipe it faster than I can get out my phone, unlock it, open the app, start the NFC chip, pick a card, etc.). If it becomes completely mainstream, then maybe I'll use it, but I'm not going to go out of my way to get a device with NFC or an NFC SD card just to have this capability.

    • FrillArtist

      "I can pull out my card and swipe it faster than I can get out my phone, unlock it, open the app, start the NFC chip, pick a card, etc"

      What a load of rubbish. You probably have never used Google Wallet then. You simply press the power or unlock button on your phone and tap away. It asks for a pin like a regular debit card and you tap again. You're done. Just about the same speed or faster than a card without the added hastle of carrying a heavy wallet loaded with cash and different credit or debit cards, searching through your many cards etc.

  • Keith

    Google deserves the beatdown. First, no widespread support in the US. And then no international launch plans for Google Wallet (just like so many other Google products (Currents, Voice, etc.).

    Google could have gone international and captured other markets, even if they lost out in the US. Now Isis will beat them there too.

  • james

    So, another solution for a problem that doesn't exist. Lets break things down.
    1. SECURITY: a consumer is liable for $0 of fraudulent credit/debit transactions, regardless of whether the transacrions are made with a card or phone.
    2. Usability: credit/debit card adoption is around 80%. Even my grandma knows how to use her debit card. How is pulling out my phone, logging in, pulling up isis, entering the isis pin, then tapping the terminal any easier then using a debit card.
    3. Acceptence : mobil paymeny can't even come close credit card merchant acceptence.