Isis, the wireless carrier joint venture created to push mobile payment services, said today that it would launch its trials in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas, on Oct. 22.
There will be as many as 20 compatible handsets by the end of the year, the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Isis is an effort by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile USA to create a standard platform that would allow consumers to pay for goods and services with their smartphones. It's just one of several mobile payment initiatives -- one of the most notable being Google Wallet, which the search giant launched last year.
Mobile payments has attracted a number of players, from payment networks such as Visa to scrappy startups like Square and online players such as PayPal, because of the vast opportunity they all see in connecting retailers directly to consumers through their cellphones.
The smartphone can not only act as a credit or debit card, but it can be a repository for coupons and targeted marketing. The device's ability to locate the consumer makes that advertising far more valuable than a TV commercial or Web site.
Mobile payments, however, has been off to a slow start, with only minimal adoption of Google Wallet's service. Isis had previously delayed its own trials a few times, saying it preferred to "get it right."
The phones under Isis, as well as Google Wallet, rely on a technology called near-field communication to connect phones to specially outfitted registers at retailers. NFC, however, may have been set back when the iPhone 5 emerged without an NFC chip. Instead, Apple chose to emphasize its own Passbook application.