As Android 4.4/KitKat updates begin rolling out to devices on all the major US carriers, one frequently asked question has to do with whether or not these devices will include Android's new "Tap and Pay" feature. This was one of the major additions in KitKat and allows almost any device with an NFC chip to be used for "tap and go" mobile payments, even if said chip doesn't have a built-in secure element.
Remember when everyone was pissed off that the Verizon version of the Galaxy Nexus couldn't use Google Wallet because of "security concerns"? ISIS Mobile Wallet, the alternative carrier-sponsored NFC payment system (and the reason that last sentence was equipped with sarcastic quote marks) is finally available, just two years after Google Wallet was coincidentally blocked by the carriers that are pushing ISIS. Nice work there, fellas.
ISIS has been in a beta testing mode in limited markets for just over a year - the necessary Android apps have been available on the Google Play Store since then.
The Isis mobile payment platform backed by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile hasn't exactly taken off, but that's to be expected: today it's only available as a trial program in Austin and Salt Lake City. The latest press release from Isis announces that the NFC-powered platform will expand nationwide later this year, though a specific date was not mentioned. Isis is widely regarded as the reason that Google Wallet remains inaccessible to most Android users on the networks of its three founding companies.
After two years on the market, Google Wallet has failed to gain any kind of meaningful foothold in the mobile payment world. That's the gist of a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek, slamming Google's mobile and NFC payment service as a "money pit" and unlikely to succeed against existing and upcoming competitors. Among the publication's chief complaints are $300 million in investments and acquisitions, and hundreds of developers on staff, all for less than 10 million downloads in the Google Play Store.
Though it's been little more than a week since the Galaxy S4 hit T-Mobile airwaves, the carrier's showing the newest member of its smartphone family some love with an incremental update. Rolling out OTA and via Samsung's Kies software, the focus of the patch (version M919UVUAMDB) seems to be on T-Mobile's pre-installed applications, rather than the system software as a whole.
The Visual Voicemail and ISIS apps are set to receive "improvements," whatever that means.
Earlier this week, Isis Mobile Wallet payment platform went live on three U.S. carriers - Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Verizon had only one device listed as supported at launch, with the DROID RAZR HD / MAXX HD compatibility set to arrive by the end of October. The Galaxy S III was also listed, but according to this list, it doesn't seem to be ready just yet.
Two days ago, Verizon released the first update v0.7.2 for the RAZR HD variants with only a mention of one new feature in the changelog: an "updated Google Security Patch." Today, Verizon amended the update document and added the mention of Isis Mobile Wallet, thus fulfilling its promise right on schedule.
Isis launched its mobile payments platform in Salt Lake City, UT and Austin, TX today, in a limited, initial rollout that's probably best viewed as a tech test more than an NFC payments panacea. We've know for quite some time that these would be Isis' launch markets (after numerous delays), and we also had a basic idea of how the system would work: NFC. What wasn't so widely-known is the fact that Isis uses the SIM secure element method to store payment credentials.
Jelly Bean may be all the rage at the moment, but the CyanogenMod team hasn't forgotten about their Ice Cream Sandwich implementation. Tucked in with the newly updated CyanogenMod 9.1 is support for the brand new SimplyTapp near-field communication system. SimplyTap is the labor of love of two dedicated CyanogenMod users, with the aim of broadening NFC payment usage via a more open implementation of the embattled standard. Currently the Tapp app is only compatible with CyanogenMod 9.1 - CM10 is moving a little too quickly to reliably add the necessary code.
Google Wallet is a great idea - in theory. In practice? The service has been plagued with problems; slow adoption, a lack of NFC devices, the existence of ISIS generally, and a public image crisis after security concerns. The biggest problem, though, has been the decided unwillingness of carriers (except Sprint) to support it.
That's because everyone but Sprint is banking on Isis, which has over $100 million in financial backing from the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.