Isis Revealed: Carrier-Led Mobile Payments Venture Shows Off Its New App, Announces Banking Partners

Isis, the carrier-led joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today new partnerships with Chase, Capital One and Barclaycard. Under the terms of the deal, the banks will include their debit, credit and prepaid cards into Isis’s forthcoming mobile wallet.

In addition, the organization is revealing, for the first time, what the interface to the Isis Mobile Wallet looks like.

While the Google Wallet initiative simmers, the top U.S. mobile operators (well, at least three of the four – Sprint is teamed up with Google for Google Wallet), have their own agenda for the future of mobile payments. The $100 million gamble that is the Isis platform is counting on the fact that NFC, or near field communication, will become the de facto standard for making purchases using a mobile phone.

NFC, for those unfamiliar, is a short-range, wireless communications technology capable of sending data between devices using a wave or a tap. It’s supported in some Android-based, BlackBerry and Nokia handsets, but not in the Apple iPhone.

Isis has been slowly inching towards making NFC-based mobile payments a reality. In July, Isis forged relationships with the top U.S. payment networks, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Last September, the majority of leading device makers, including HTC, LG, Motorola, RIM, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, as well as NFC hardware provider Device Fidelity, pledged support for Isis.

Today, Isis is announcing that starting in mid-2012, consumers will be able to load their eligible Chase, Capital One and Barclaycard cards into their Isis Mobile Wallet and shop at participating merchants.

But hang on, before you get too excited about all this: Isis will only be available in its test markets at first, which, the organization says, includes  Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. The national rollout “to follow” isn’t expected until next year, we’ve heard.

As for the exciting reveal of the Isis Mobile Wallet user interface. It’s, um, OK. I’m not sure it screams “future of mobile payments,” though.

Of course, it’s too soon to know whether Isis, Google Wallet, or even NFC will end up being a major player in the mobile payments landscape of the future, especially when other companies including PayPal, Square and numerous startups have their own ingenious plans. And Apple, whose involvement in the space would surely be trend-setting, hasn’t even shown its cards yet.