The Isis joint venture in the US between Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile this week announced that six of the world’s leading handset vendors were on board to launch NFC handsets based on the joint venture’s technology and standards. Sounds good especially when the six vendors are HTC, LG, Motorola Mobility, RIM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, big names all. In fact, within the handset world’s hierarchy only Apple and Nokia are missing or if one wanted to include up-and-coming mass-market talent, perhaps Huawei and ZTE.
This was a swift rejoinder from Isis following the launch of Google Wallet the previous week. The mention of six (count them) handset vendors looks good when measured against the sole handset with which users can currently access Google’s service. That’s the Spint Nexus S 4G. Yes, that’s right not even a single handset vendor supporting the service but only a single handset. Now other vendors (including the soon-to-be-Google-owned Motorola) are pretty likely to launch handsets for Google Wallet but Isis’ announcement did cut some ground from under the search giant’s feet.
But hold on let’s look a little closer at the Isis announcement. It does not actually say when the handsets from the six vendors will be launched. Nor give any idea about the number of models that will be offered by the vendors. In fact, the level of commitment seems to be vague. This feels like a quickfire response to the previous week’s Google launch.
Actually, the most significant aspect of the announcement might turn out to be the news that Isis is working with Devicefidelity, which will give a way to retrofit older mobile handsets with a NFC capability, as well as any new smartphones lacking the technology. Devicefidelity specialises in microSD cards and NFC-enabled handset cases. The use of such devices, along with NFC stickers, is an underated way for a quick spread of mobile payment services (Google too has shown off NFC stickers in the past) to existing handsets.
What was important for Isis at this stage of the mobile payments market was to have a rapid riposte to one of its rivals. And this it achieved. It will need to keep up its momentum. After all, the joint venture will not actually launch its mobile payment service until the first half of 2012 and only then in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City in Utah according to its current plans. The market is all about mindshare at this stage. Stand by for more such announcements from Isis, and its rivals too, before the start of real competition.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members