The race for NFC-based mobile payments is heating up with projections for 2013 exceeding $13 billion globally, up from just over $7 billion in 2011, according to Gartner research.
Isis, the mobile-payments joint venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, has signed up Coca-Cola, Macy’s, Aéropostale, Dillard’s, Foot Locker (and its subsidiary Champs Sports) and Jamba Juice, as well as hundreds of local retailers in Texas and Utah who will start accepting Isis payments by this summer.
Both Isis and competitor Google Wallet use NFC chips that store user’s credit card data or pre-loaded digital cash. Both companies are also working with check-out scanners and retailers including Gap, Office Max, Toys ‘R’ Us and Walgreens.
Google Wallet is currently available on four Sprint handsets and none from the mobile operators backing Isis. Sprint is the only U.S. carrier backing Google Wallet and to that end just released the LG Optimus Elite for Virgin Mobile.
Virgin Mobile, a Sprint-owned pre-paid brand is the first to include an NFC chip and the Android 2.3 handset is priced at $149.99 with pre-paid plans starting at $35 per month.
“Until now, most NFC-based Google Wallet phones were expensive, higher-end handsets. For $149, Sprint, Virgin Mobile and LG are putting wireless payments in the hands of the pre-paid user base at a reasonable cost,” notes GigaOm. Will it help Google Wallet win out over Isis? Probably not, but if nothing else, the LG Optimus Elite will at least raise awareness for mobile payments before a whole new audience.”
A successor to the popular LG Optimus V, the customizable smartphone includes Gingerbread, a 3.5-inch HVGA screen, 800MHz processor, 5MP autofocus rear-facing camera and camcorder with flash, and a virtual QWERTY keyboard.
"Our customers fell in love with the LG Optimus V, so bringing another great device to our lineup of Android-powered devices from the Optimus family goes right along with our promise of 'A Higher Calling,'" said Virgin Mobile USA VP Jeff Auman.
PayPal is also adding to its mobile payments partners, with Office Depot rumored to be joining Home Depot in adopting the company’s online payment network at the register. According to All Things D, a press conference invitation reads: “Meet PayPal’s new president, David Marcus; be the first to speak to PayPal’s new, brand-name retail partners; and get an exclusive sneak peek at how PayPal plans to make payments easier than ever for tens of thousands of mid-size merchants.”
PayPal’s current solutions are a plastic credit card for purchases charged to a PayPal account and via mobile phone number and a PIN entered into a payment terminal.
Mobile payments in Canada are also moving closer to deployment as Rogers and CIBC have teamed up to launch the country’s first mobile wallet. “It will no doubt change the way Canadians pay for purchases,” stated David Williamson, CIBC’s head of retail banking.
Canada’s banking industry just issued a blueprint for open standards for secure transactions using NFC. “Today we’ve taken a giant leap forward,” said Rob Bruce, president of communications for Rogers. “In a few years, a digital wallet will be just as common on a smartphone as a camera is today.”
Telus Corp., Canada’s third-largest wireless operator, is also working with various banks on a mobile wallet offering. Google, meanwhile, plans to bring its Google Wallet to Canada – adding pressure to banks and carriers as it cuts out their role in the commerce food chain.