A Day in the Life of Getting Isis Mobile Payments Up & Running

There are still some bumps on the road to mobile payments. 

Since the ISIS mobile payment platform launched nationwide last week, I decided to give it a try.

 Almost two years ago, I used Google Wallet with NFC (Near field Communication) at the Isis demonstration vending machine at SXSW and it worked great (other than over charging me, which was late reimbursed). One tap, money paid.

So I downloaded the Isis Mobile Wallet app onto my Samsung Galaxy S4, no prob. It quickly let me know I needed a new SIM card, which was expected.

For the irony, I asked Siri on my iPhone 5S to find the nearest ATT store, which she readily did. I drove to the location, found the large ATT logo outside and started my SIM journey.

            “I’d like to get my phone set up for ISIS,” I told the friendly sales associate.

            “What’s that?”

            “It’s your new mobile payment system.”

            “Oh, you mean the mobile wallet?”

            “Yes, that’s it.”

            “Oh, we don’t have that yet. You need a SIM card and we don’t have those.”

            “But it’s an ATT service.”

            “You have to go to an ATT corporate store. We’re only an ATT reseller, even though it says ATT.”

            Back in the car, we used Google to find the nearest ‘corporate’ ATT store, which I called in advance to confirm they had the required SIM card.

            After entering the ATT store located in a large mall, I gave my name to the person with the tablet who takes names to get in digital line on the wall screen to be called whenever a salesperson ever becomes available.

            I told the tablet person I just wanted to get a SIM card for Isis and he said he was not yet Isis trained so I would have to wait for an associate who was.

            After 10 or so minutes, the person with the tablet decided to try to help. He tested my phone to see if it needed a new SIM card for Isis (I told him the app told me I did, which is why I drove to the store). He checked and confirmed I needed a new SIM card.

            He found an Isis SIM card and started the process of typing lots of numbers into his laptop to assure the SIM card matched my phone and all that.

            I asked him how many people had been coming in for Isis and he said not many. Asked to be a little more specific, he said one other person came in for one but couldn’t remember her password so it could not be activated.

            “Besides her, how many have there been?”

            “You’re really the first.”


While in the store, I started the necessary activation process on the phone and waited another 10 or so minutes. It was still activating. The ATT rep told me the Wi-Fi in the store may not be working well enough and suggested it would activate more quickly when in a better zone.

            I left the store with my phone still activating Isis. After 40 minutes of still trying to activate, I received message on the phone that activation had failed and said I needed to start the process all over again.

            I typed in all the same information again (thankfully, not a lot of info was required) and started the activation process again. After several minutes, I received a message that Isis was activated.

                        Now, to find a way to get money into Isis.

                        The options are to add an American Express card, American Express Serve or a Chase card.

            Since I had an account already, I selected American Express Serve and started entering the requested data. It brought me to an AmEx site to sign in and after a few unsuccessful tries of recalling that particular password, I got locked out of that option until I could get a password reset from AmEx.

            Then I tried to enter my American Express card  and typed an incorrect number in and spent a considerable amount of time working to get that corrected. Another password reset required from AmEx.

            I ultimately got both the card and Serve linked to Isis. I set my password key, the easiest of all the steps.

            Now on to make a purchase with Isis.

            I drove to downtown Boston, parked in the middle of tony Newbury Street and allowed Isis to tell me which of the many merchants on the store-lined street accepted Isis.

            It looked like I was in luck, since the only store within walking distance listed was just a block away.

            I walked into that store and asked the first salesperson I saw if they took Isis.

            “What’s that?”

            “It’s a mobile payment system.”

            “I’ve never heard of it. Let me ask the cashier.”

            “No, I never heard of Isis. Where did you hear about that?”

            “You are listed as the only merchant in the area that takes it.”

            “I’ve never heard about it. Let me ask the owner.”

A minute went by and out came the very friendly and helpful owner of the company, which has one store in Boston and one in another Massachusetts location.

            “How can I help you?”

            “We’re looking for a store that takes Isis and you are the only one listed.”

            “Where did you see it listed?”

            “Here, see how it’s the only one the app recommends?”

            “Oh, we used to have it but there were too many problems so we had it removed.”

            “Have you tried Square or LevelUp?”

            “The charges for Square are way too high.”


            “And we have to train every person, which could cost us $100 each time we get a new employee, and we have high turnover.

            “It’s just not worth it.”

            “But don’t mention my company name, since we may eventually get Isis back some day.”

            Not sure how many people will go through these kinds of iterations to get Isis up and running.

            In any case, now I’m ready to use it if the opportunity arises.


4 comments about "A Day in the Life of Getting Isis Mobile Payments Up & Running".
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  1. John Caron from Catalina, November 18, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.

    A brilliant summary of why standalone payment apps will not see real scale. There's not enough value, way too much work by the consumer, not personalization of the experience, outdated retailer data, inexperienced/untrained retail staff and, in the end, no benefit over taking a credit card out of your wallet. Plus, as an iPhone user, ISIS is of no value to me or millions of other technology early adopters. Great article chuck!

  2. Mark Evans from Addion, November 18, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.

    +1 to @JohnCaron and @ChuckMartin.

    I haven't tried Isis and would now only do so for testing my limits on self-inflicted pain.

    Last year I killed my PayPass because I could only link one card to it, making it impossible to select among payment methods, and it saved only a few seconds.

    Coin seems interesting, if incremental, but short-lived.

  3. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 18, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

    Thank you very much John. Your list of issues is dead on. Thanks again.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 18, 2013 at 7:22 p.m.

    Yes, Mark, can be quite a painful experience, at least in these early stages.

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