Phones have been shipping with NFC (near field communication) support for several years now, but the one use case that we've all been waiting for, paying for things via a simple tap, has yet to take the market by storm. Google launched Google Wallet in May 2011, but hardly anyone is using it. Why? There aren't any technical reasons to explain Google Wallet's failure, it all boils down to politics. Today your financies are handled by your bank. They issue you a debit or credit card that you can use pretty much anywhere in the world. With mobile payments, who exactly “owns” the relationship with the customer? Is it the company that manufactures the phone? The operator that provides a SIM card? Does your bank release a mobile app?
ISIS was created in November 2010 by three American operators: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. They originally wanted to create a completely new payment platform, but now they've changed their tune. According to leaked documents, ISIS will work pretty much like Google Wallet. You manually type in your credit card information, and then that's it. There's also going to be a virtual “ISIS Cash Card” that you'll be able to put money on, which is again, is similar to the Google Wallet virtual credit card.
When will it launch? The leak we mentioned earlier says October 22nd. Sadly, it's not going to be available at a national level, at least not yet. The initial markets will be Salt Lake City, Utah and Austin, Texas.
Will mobile payments ever become a big thing? It's an inevitability, but we're going to have to deal with large companies and their competing interests for many years to come. That being said, we really question people who complain about today's system. Credit cards are ubiquitous, and almost all the new ones being issued have chips in them that increase security.
Tapping to pay sure sounds cool, but is it really an improvement to what we already have?