Handset makers line up behind Isis NFC payment platform

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Isis, the carrier-led near field communication payment platform formed by Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, earlier snapped up support from the major credit card companies. Now today it has received the support of most of the top handset makers, who have pledged to integrate the wireless technology into future devices.

Isis announced Tuesday that HTC, LG, Motorola Mobility, RIM, Samsung Mobile and Sony Ericsson will launch NFC-enabled mobile devices that use Isis’ NFC contactless technology. It’s unclear when the hardware partners will start rolling out Isis-capable handsets and what exactly their support entails. But it sounds like it will probably happen next year when Isis launches. Isis said it is teaming with DeviceFidelity to enable other smartphones to enable NFC connections. DeviceFidelity makes SIM chips microSD cards and handset cases that enable a phone to have NFC support.

“Isis’ technology standards provide the direction and certainty needed for the development and deployment of NFC devices and the mobile commerce ecosystem,” said Scott Mulloy, chief technology officer, Isis. “Working together with the device makers and our founding mobile carriers, Isis can provide the consumer choice and scale necessary for widespread adoption of mobile commerce.”

The news is an important achievement for Isis, which is competing with Google’s Wallet NFC platform. Isis executives have told me that the carrier relationships with manufacturers is a key asset for Isis, allowing the operators to help push the adoption of NFC. It’s unclear how the news will affect Google Wallet, which launched earlier this month but on only one handset: the Nexus S on Sprint. Isis said last week that its platform would work on the Android operating system and other smartphone OSes.

The news today may explain why Google has not been able to announce any other handsets that support Google Wallet. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how Isis’ NFC technology works alongside Google Wallet. Almost all the Isis handset partners are Android licensees, including Motorola, which is in the process of being bought by Google. Motorola’s Christy Wyatt, corporate VP of software and services product management, said the company will work with not only Isis but the broader “Android ecosystem” to provide consumers with NFC-enabled handsets.

But stepping back, the news is good for NFC in general, which is having to overcome a perception of hype. Rivals PayPal and Square have both been dissing the technology, saying it doesn’t add value right now. But with the support of handset makers, it could quickly become a powerful tool for not only mobile payments but also mobile marketing, loyalty programs and targeted offers. And the partnerships will help fulfill some estimates for NFC shipments such as IHS’ projection for 550 million NFC devices by 2015. NFC will take some time to become a mainstream technology but the handset makers are showing the necessary support to help it get there.

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