Picture walking up to the Dillard's counter, two shirts in one hand, smartphone in the other.
There's no need to reach for your wallet, because all of the credit card information has been stored in your phone. One tap of the phone against a small mobile reader next to the cash register, and you're out the door.
Welcome to the new, more intelligent world of smartphones that can double as wallets.
Just one or two smartphones currently hold the souped-up microchip technology needed to correspond with mobile phone readers that access credit card and bank information. While consumers now can scan phones across barcode readers to enter concert venues and ballparks, or to board airplanes, the concept of using a phone instead of a credit card is in its nascent stages. Complexity, a lack of available technology, and concern over protecting financial information are the chief reasons behind the slow growth.
A joint venture established a year ago with Atlanta-based AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA and some of the major banks and credit card issuers, is hoping to make the mobile wallet mainstream. The venture, called Isis, is testing its mobile wallet with a list of local stores in Austin and Salt Lake City and with some nationwide vendors including Coca-Cola Co., Dillard's and Champs Sports. Isis hasn't said when the mobile wallet will be available in other markets or when the venture will expand its list of national merchants, said Jaymee Johnson, head of marketing.
"The mobile wallet is going to be a heck of a convenience," said Richard Mader, executive director of the Association for Retail Technology Standards, a division of the National Retail Federation.
Eventually, customers who have the Isis Mobile Wallet setup on their mobile phones will be able to pay for things using it instead of a bank card at any store or venue that has a mobile payment system.
"There's a huge opportunity there in terms of making things easier, and we're getting into a completely new line of business that we're very excited about," AT&T Mobility Chief Executive Officer Ralph de la Vega said in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Just think that you'll be able to pay for anything with that device ... from accessing a vending machine ... to buying any kind of goods and services."
Isis joins Google and PayPal as companies trying to make it easier for consumers to use their smartphones to buy clothes, tickets and other basic items. In short, consumers have to load credit card, debit card and banking information onto their phone. That information is transmitted to a store or venue once the phone is tapped or scanned across a special mobile reader at checkout.
Right now the sector is small: Internet payment companies such as PayPal have developed mobile apps and Google is testing the Google Wallet, just to name a few.___