Hands On: ISIS Tap-and-Pay Phone Tech Isn't Worth the Hassle
Let's face it: there's a bit of a thrill in simply pulling out your phone, tapping it against a reader, and walking away with a double cheeseburger. If only signing up for ISIS, the carriers' answer to Google Wallet, was that easy.
Thu, November 14, 2013
IDG News Service — Let's face it: there's a bit of a thrill in simply pulling out your phone, tapping it against a reader, and walking away with a double cheeseburger. If only signing up for ISIS, the carriers' answer to Google Wallet, was that easy.
Two years ago, I was one of the first to try out Google Wallet. I loved it. Paying with a tap of your phone didn't just seem like a page out of the future, it was a convenient way to avoid the admittedly miniscule hassle of digging out a wallet in taxicabs and at the occasional fast-food joint.
But Google Wallet never really took off. Why? Several reasons.
- First, contactless chip-and-PIN credit schemes were never adopted by American retailers, despite becoming quite common in the U.K. and elsewhere.
- Second, phones equipped with the requisite Near Field Communications (NFC) technology took off slowly.
- And finally, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless--the architects of the ISIS technology--blocked Google Wallet from their phones. Only Google's Nexus phones survived. Meanwhile, ISIS remained "in testing" in Austin and Salt Lake City for years.
ISIS has issues similar to Google Wallet's, though. First, ISIS supports only a small subset of credit cards. And though it's owned by the major carriers, you can't actually charge a purchase to your phone bill. And it doesn't work on iOS. So ISIS, in its current form, is half a solution to a problem many really don't have.
Both ISIS and Wallet work on the same principle: you download a dedicated app from the Google Play Store, connect your e-wallet to your bank account or credit card, and then tap to pay at a number of retailers equipped with either the MasterCard PayPass or Visa PayWave terminals. (MasterCard maintains a list of PayPass locations, and there's an Android app, too. ISIS maintains a separate list.)
To use ISIS, you'll need a compatible phoneA from one of the three carriers. One caveat: while I do not own a phone that's supported by ISIS, I do own one that should be compatible with ISIS: the NFC-equipped Galaxy Note 3. But it's the setup, not actually paying with the phone, that's the hassle.
Downloading the app was simple enough, although the setup process oddly requires you to turn off Wi-Fi after the installation process completes--to authenticate yourself with the carrier, presumably.
The ISIS app is clean and attractive, with a brief overlay that directs you to add payment options plus loyalty cards at major retailers. You'll need to select a 4-digit PIN code that unlocks the wallet --pretty standard fare.