“Wave-to-pay” technology is finally coming to the iPhone … in the form of a smartphone case. Incipio, a maker of mobile-device accessories, created an iPhone case that houses near field communication (NFC) hardware to work with the ISIS mobile wallet.
Showcased at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, the Incipio case — called CashWrap — will be available for purchase at AT&T stores from $60 to $70 starting in March. CashWrap is programmed to support the ISIS mobile wallet, a joint project that is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless. The case is only available for the iPhone 4/4S.
With ISIS, consumers can sync their bank cards and loyalty cards to the mobile wallet, pay for purchases and use digital coupons by waving their devices at a special payment terminal.
In October, the ISIS mobile wallet began its pilot test in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah. Currently, the mobile wallet is only compatible with NFC-enabled Android devices (the ISIS mobile application for Android is available).
Because iPhones do not have hardware to support NFC, a large group of consumers don’t have access to this form of mobile payments. The iPhone 5, launched in the fall of last year, was expected to offer NFC, but low-consumer adoption and power usage may have deterred the tech giant from incorporating the technology.
ISIS does not yet currently have an iPhone app. At the time of this article’s release, the company has not gotten back to a request for comment. Given that the CashWrap case is expected to be available in March, it is safe to assume that the ISIS mobile app will launch before then.
Google Wallet, a competing mobile wallet, also does not have a presence in iPhones yet. Google was reportedly planning to introduce a physical card, which is controlled by a Google Wallet app (again, only available on Android devices for now). A Google Wallet app could be in the works but it would still require consumers to carry a card.
Despite the forward push by NFC, some industry experts believe that NFC will fail to take off. PayPal president David Marcus believes that NFC will die this year because “it’s not solving a real consumer problem and it’s not providing additional value to encourage me (or anyone else for that matter) to change my behavior. Is tapping a phone at a terminal any easier than swiping a credit card?”
According to comScore, 35 percent of U.S. smartphone subscribers own an iPhone. The Apple crowd has indicated the trends in consumer technology before. Can a $60 case be the spark that ignites NFC adoption?