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SXSW: Hands On With ISIS Mobile Wallet

Mobile Wallet is going to become big in the next few years. The ability to store your important financial information on your smartphone and use it by simply tapping your phone is both convenient and in some ways more secure.

Many privacy and security pundits are worried about the safety of confidential financial information being stored on your smartphone. However the companies working on mobile wallets promise that it’s safe. With that issue out of the way, the mobile wallet space is already getting crowded and there’s only one mobile wallet product available today.

Google Wallet is available now and works anywhere that MasterCard Pay Pass is accepted. Google Wallet offers the user the ability to use a Citibank credit card, or a Google prepaid card to fund the mobile wallet. When demoed last year you could also combine loyalty cards, gift cards and discount codes to your in-store experience.

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Google Wallet was introduced by Google and Sprint via the Samsung Nexus S 4G. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon didn’t openly support Google Wallet as they’ve thrown their support around Isis.  Verizon Galaxy Nexus customers can use Google Wallet on rooted and non-rooted phones however it has to be side-loaded.

Paypal is also testing a mobile wallet system in California. Their product works similarly to Google’s. Paypal is a trusted name in mobile transactions and you can fund that mobile wallet in any of the same ways you can a Paypal debit card currently on the market. You can use your existing Paypal balance. You can fund it directly from your bank account or credit card. You can even load Paypal, and in turn, PayPal wallet with a GreenDot prepaid card that you can purchase at any WalMart.

All three services use Near Field Communication or NFC to “tap” the payment via the smartphone to the payment terminal. Isis is no different.

As we said above AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile didn’t support Google Wallet out of the gate. Instead they are launch partners with Isis. Isis also has some pretty heft financial partners in the Discover network and Barclays. Isis also supports Capital One credit cards rather than Citi cards out of the gate. Capital One has a larger user base than Citi.

While Google Wallet has partnered with PayPass for the point of sale transaction part, Isis recently announced a partnership with Verifone and Equinox, quite easily the largest two transaction processors in the world.  With Verifone and Exquinox users of Isis are going to have a much larger selection of retailers, restaurants and businesses to choose from to use their Isis Mobile Wallet. That will potentially help Isis to build scale much quicker.

We got a chance to spend some time at SXSW with the ISIS team and got a quick walk through so you can see how easy it is to use. While Isis offers pin protection (which can’t be reset with a re-install), they have other security systems in place for user protection.

With Isis you can go to the website or call their 24 hour customer service number and have your account temporarily suspended while any issue you have, like temporarily lost phone, or other compromise, resolved. They also offer no visible account numbers and constantly changing security codes.

Isis will roll out first to Salt Lake City Utah and then the rest of the U.S. The Isis reps we spoke with though, said despite the service rolling out in Salt Lake City first, once the app is available in the Android market Isis will work with the same merchants in any part of the country. Isis is expected to rollout this summer. They have OEM partners involved too including Samsung, HTC and Motorola as well as Blackberry.

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