UPDATE: September 3, 2014
-- The company behind Isis Wallet has officially changed its name to Softcard. CEO Michael Abbot explained in a blog post that the company is rebranding itself because “however coincidental, we have no desire to share a name" with the extremist group responsible for the vicious campaign of violence in Syria and Iraq. The company had announced in July that it was looking for a new name to avoid association with the violent Islamic militant group.
Our original story from February 2012 continues below.
Get ready for the battle of the mobile wallets. At the Mobile World Congress now taking place in Barcelona, Spain, Isis upped its challenge to Google Wallet by announcing deals with several major credit card companies.
Isis, based in New York City, is a joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless. In the deal announced Tuesday, Chase, Capital One, and Barclaycard will allow their credit, debit, and prepaid cards to be used in the Isis Mobile Wallet, beginning in the middle of this year when the Isis Wallet will formally launch.
Trials for Isis Wallet will start in Salt Lake City and Austin, followed by a national rollout.
Like Google Wallet, which has been capturing much of the mobile wallet press attention up to now, Isis Wallet offers a convenient, secure way to use a smartphone to pay for purchases, redeem coupons and participate in loyalty programs from retailers.
Transactions are enabled by a tap of the phone to a merchant's near field communications reader. The phone must have NFC technology, which is beginning to appear on various models. Smartphone makers HTC, Samsung and Research In Motion, among others, have committed to including NFC in their products.
The three credit card companies now involved with Isis said they will be tailoring their cardholder service to the new mobile wallet experience. A key emphasis from retailers, credit card and payment companies for mobile wallets is the ability to forge new relationships with customers, particularly with on-the-spot promotions and loyalty coupons.
Last summer, Isis announced deals with the four major payment networks -- Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.
One question is whether any of the emerging mobile wallets offer a competitive advantage in terms of features, reliability, number of participating retailers, ease of use, loyalty programs or any other factor. In a statement, Isis said it was building an open platform and ecosystem that will encompass "all participating carriers, phone models, payment networks, merchants and banks."
Google Wallet, Visa, PayPal
The three Isis co-venture carrier partners represent over 200 million wireless subscribers, more than 100 million phones sold annually, three-quarters of all wireless users in the U.S., and more than 20,000 retail outlets.
Google's Wallet, launched in the fall of 2011, offers MasterCard credit cards from Citigroup, or a Google prepaid account. Google's mobile wallet is being tested in some markets, but is limited because it only has Citi participating and only works on some Android-based smartphones with NFC.
Google and Isis are not the only ones competing for top wallet. Visa, for instance, is expected to unveil a digital wallet where, instead of typing in credit card numbers into online forms, customers will be able to make purchases simply by entering a user name and password. The digital wallet, called V.me, might also be expanded to include a mobile wallet for smartphones.
Ericsson has also announced a mobile payment venture with Western Union. And PayPal offers a payment card for leather wallets that represents a PayPal account and can be used with a PC or a smartphone, or directly in a store.