Mobile payments provider Isis said Wednesday it has passed a major milestone: It averaged 20,000 new Isis Wallet accounts per day during the month of April. That rate is double the uptake Isis saw in March. Looking at April's numbers alone, there are at least 600,000 smartphone owners in the US who've added Isis to their devices. Perhaps smartphone-based mobile payments are finally reaching the critical mass needed for true success.
Isis launched last November with support from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint doesn't support Isis at this time. At first only a handful of devices were compatible with the service, which requires NFC and a secure SIM card. The roster of phones supporting Isis has blossomed in recent months to a total of 68 devices. Further, the app is now preloaded on 14 smartphones, and Isis claims more are in the pipeline. (These are all Android-based smartphones. Isis only works on the iPhone with the help of a special $70 case that adds the necessary NFC radio.)
Handset support isn't the only factor in making Isis work. Banks and merchants are also helping the mobile payment system get off the ground. American Express, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase allow their customers to attach credit card accounts to their Isis-compatible smartphones. With the hardware, app, and credit card all working in unison, consumers can simply tap their smartphones to make payments at participating retailers.
[Want to know when you're near a store that sells something you want? See Google Sends Shopping Alerts To Android Devices.]
The number of retailers is growing, and includes a number of national chains as well as local businesses. Some include Duane Reade, RadioShack, Walgreens, Toys'R'Us, Rite Aid, Foot Locker, American Eagle, Champs, and AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless shops.
Jamba Juice, one of the earliest merchant supporters of Isis, says more and more people are using tap-and-go payments for its smoothies each day. Last fall, Jamba Juice announced a free-smoothie promotion for customers who used Isis. "Isis represents a growing percentage of our total transactions nationwide, and our stores have experienced more than 50% month-over-month growth in Wallet use," said Isis CEO James D. White. "By the end of the first quarter Jamba Juice customers had redeemed more than 270,000 free smoothies and we expect to hit one million by this fall. The success of the 1 Million Free Smoothie Campaign has created habituation among our customers."
White used a key word there: habituation. Once consumers learn it's simple to tap their smartphones to make mobile payments, they're expected to seek out more places to repeat the behavior. Juniper Research believes the number of contactless mobile phone transactions worldwide will hit 3 billion by the end of this year. Isis didn't reveal the number of transactions since the service's November launch.
Isis and its partners are offering a number of enticing deals to drive use of the system, and perhaps they've played a role in its recent growth. For example, New Yorkers can get 50% off an NYC Yellow Taxi ride if they pay with their American Express-backed Isis account. Further, Coke is giving Isis users three free drinks when they tap-to-pay at select vending machines, and Toys'R'Us is offering a $10 discount on Isis payments for goods totaling $50 or more.
Isis says it is working to further broaden the ecosystem of partners so consumers have more ways to pay and more ways to save. This means more compatible phones and more deals. (Pro tip for Isis: Convince Apple to add NFC to the iPhone.) It would help to get more national retailers to support the mobile payment venture, as well.
What do you think? Have you used Isis or any other form of mobile payment? Is the dream of leaving our wallets at home closer to reality? Please sound off in the comments below.
What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio