Isis, the mobile payment network put together by AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, today announced that it now has the support of Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.
The news means that Isis’s mobile payment terminals will be able to handle transactions with the four major U.S. credit card companies. Instead of swiping a credit card, you could make purchases by touching an Isis-enabled phone to the terminal, authorizing the transaction with account data stored on your phone.
When it was initially announced, Isis seemed like it was going to be a competitor to entrenched credit card companies (though Discover was an early partner, assisting with transactions). Now it appears that Isis may just be a new way for consumers to take advantage of their existing credit cards.
A report from May suggested that Isis was backing down from its more ambitious beginnings, and that’s where we also heard that the network was seeking out deals from Visa and MasterCard. I’ve sent an inquiry to Isis to see if today’s news confirms the previous report and will update when I hear back.
Mobile payments was one of the hottest topics at our MobileBeat 2011 conference last week, primarily because there’s a ton of potential in having your mobile phone take the place of your wallet. Juniper predicts that mobile payments will reach $670 billion globally by 2015. We also know that Google has big plans for mobile payments as well with Google Wallet, which has the backing of Sprint and MasterCard.
Sprint, notably, is the only major carrier in the US missing from the Isis partnership. The carrier is most likely placing its bet on Google Wallet becoming the mobile payments standard, but for now it stands to lose out if Isis makes any progress. It probably won’t be too long before other credit card companies jump on to Google Wallet as well.
With mobile payments in its infancy, some confusion is to be expected. It’s going to be interesting to see how this battle plays out over the next few years, especially with existing companies like PayPal and Intuit wanting a piece of the pie, and fresh upstarts like Square.