Isis, the carrier-led joint venture between AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, is gaining steam and has today announced a new addition to its mobile wallet: American Express. The Isis Mobile Wallet will now support American Express’ Consumer, Open Small Business and Serve cards, joining Chase, Capital One and Barclaycard, which have previously committed to the program.
A mobile wallet leader has not yet emerged – Square is growing, and Google Wallet has been floundering – but the space is still really new. Although half of the U.S.’s mobile population use smartphones, making transactions via the phone has yet to establish itself as a real, or more importantly, as a better alternative to the swipe. But if there’s a piece of the mobile payments pie to be had, you can be sure the carriers want in. Hence, Isis .
The initiative is slowly moving forward, with its bankcard partnerships having been announced in February, new POS partners Verifone, Ingenico and ViVOtech announced in March, and last summer, its partnerships with payment networks (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express) and device makers (HTC, LG, Motorola, RIM, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson).
Of the new AmEx relationship, the Serve addition may be the most interesting. Serve, as you may recall is American Express’ new digital payments and commerce platform which is, in effect, its own digital wallet of sorts. Serve integrates a variety of payment options into a single account that can be funded by a bank account, debit or credit card. With Isis, the Serve digital platform becomes a bit like a mobile wallet within a wallet. This actually makes more sense, as a real mobile wallet should mirror our offline counterpart and include all the bank cards we use, not just those from a single entity.
Later this year, Isis will roll out its first pilot tests in Salt Lake City and Austin in advance of its public availability. While the moves seem slow to those watching the space, you have to acknowledge that building up the partnerships in advance and then thoroughly testing the product before hyping its launch, may be a smarter way to encourage eventual consumer adoption of the Isis wallet over..well, Square perhaps, and whatever Apple might announce one day, if it chooses to do so.