Visa Approves microSDs for Use with Three Smartphones

Jan 7 2011

Visa has certified the iPhone and two other smartphones for use with microSD cards carrying its payWave application.

In what the card network said is the first time it has approved a contactless-mobile payment product, the microSD cards from U.S.-based DeviceFidelity are approved to work with the iPhone 4, 3GS and 3G models along with the Android-based Samsung Vibrant Galaxy S and BlackBerry Bold 9650. Visa said it expects to add more smartphone models to the list, including those based on the Symbian and Windows Phone operating systems.

The iPhone requires a case with a microSD card slot, also supplied by DeviceFidelity. The case includes a full-size contactless antenna. The microSD card with a tiny embedded antenna fits into built-in slots in the other smartphones, drawing extra power from the phones or booster coils in the back covers to complete the transactions.

The certification means the DeviceFidelity In2Pay cards with the particular handset models have passed Visa conformance testing for security and usability and will be available to Visa issuers under standard contract terms. The product had only been available to banks piloting the technology, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank.

Update: Dave Wentker, Visa Inc.'s head of mobile product development, told NFC Times that Visa did not ease the certification requirements for the microSD product in order to speed it to market. It had to meet the same certification criteria as full NFC or other contactless-mobile devices carrying payWave will. This includes the promise of a consistent experience for consumers for the In2Pay cards, no matter the phone the cards are inserted into.

"That (usability) was critical," Wentker said. "Security, of course, (and) reliability. Does it work consistently? Is it perceived intuitively, all things relative? Absolutely. We’ve been working flat out for so long." End update.

The list of approved devices, while still limited, includes three popular models or platforms. "That was part of what we were trying to do, pick ones that were widely sold and deployed," Wentker said. 

There have been some questions about whether the microSDs could pass Visa certification, including ensuring that consumers didn't have to tap the phones on particular parts of the point-of-sale readers or on different spots on the phones, according to the model. This was less in doubt for the iPhone because of the case with the full-size antenna that does not require the power boost from the phone or from an extra coil or antenna placed in the back cover of the handset. The iPhone with attachment is expected to be easier for consumers to understand how to tap on readers.

Update: But the Samsung Galaxy S does require what appears to be an extra coil or antenna that is attached inside the back cover of the phone as part of a sticker. This "passive-range extension label," as DeviceFidelity calls it, in effect amplifies the signal from the reader. Without it, users who tap the phone on readers to pay could have an inconsistent experience. According to the vendor, it developed the extension label to compensate for microSD slots surrounded by a lot of metal and point-of-sale readers with weak signals. End update.

Among the differences between the requirements for contactless-mobile devices and conventional payWave bank cards is that the mobile devices, including microSDs and passive stickers, only require a 2-centimeter read range, compared with 4 centimeters for conventional cards. Visa will have to approve NFC phones for use with payWave.

"In addition to issuing plastic magnetic stripe or chip-enabled payment cards, financial institutions can now consider offering their account holders a new technology that enables them to transform their existing phones into fully functional mobile payment devices," Bill Gajda, head of Visa Mobile, said in a statement.

Visa and big U.S. banks have been anxious for products that would enable them to introduce contactless-mobile payment without involving U.S. mobile operators–which are planning their own NFC-payment scheme, called Isis.

Update: But Wentker said that any looming threat from Isis is not what fueled Visa's work on the microSDs.

"There’s a place for this technology in the market," he told NFC Times. "Interest is very, very high."

Still, there are questions around the issuing model and distribute modes banks will use to get the microSDs into the phones of customers. There is also a need for more phone models to be certified, say observers.

Visa continues to work on full NFC phones, said Wentker. In addition, Visa's bank-owned affiliate, Visa Europe, is working on an iPhone attachment, iCarte, from Canada-based Wireless Fidelity. End update.

HEADLINE NEWS

Exclusive: What Tokenization Fees from Visa Might Look Like for Issuers

NFC TIMES Exclusive – While Visa has said it is waiving tokenization fees for issuers that join its commercial tokenization hub, VDEP, and use its Visa Token Service, some observers believe the network will charge the fees sooner or later.

Sony Launches Support for FeliCa Technology on HCE Devices, Though Few Handsets Available Yet

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Japan’s Sony Corp. is supporting host card emulation with its proprietary FeliCa contactless technology, which could enable service providers to avoid the need for secure elements in rolling out FeliCa-based applications on NFC phones.

Samsung Semiconductor Faces Challenges in Rolling Out Contactless-Payments Service for Wearables

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – Samsung Semiconductor believes there is room for yet another closed-loop payments service, one that enables consumers to pay with contactless wearables devices that carry its dual-interface chips.

Android Pay Launches in Belgium, While State-Owned Belfius Bank Takes Two-Staged Approach to Own HCE Rollout

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Two of the largest banks in Belgium have launched, or are planning to launch, HCE-based mobile payments but chose different approaches: BNP Paribas Fortis decided to first launch with Android Pay, while state-owned Belfius Bank plans to enable the service within its mobile-banking app.

Serbia's KomBank Seeks to Increase Mobile Banking Users with HCE Service

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Komercijalna banka Beograd, known as KomBank, one of Serbia’s largest banks, incorporated a host-card-emulation-based mobile payment service into its mobile banking app to increase awareness and use of the app, Slobodan Lukić, the bank's deputy director of the payment cards division told NFC Times.

Apple Pay Launches in Ireland and Gears Up in Italy; but Only One Major Bank On Board So Far in Each Country

NFC Times Exclusive Insight – Apple has expanded its mobile payments service to another small market, with its launch Tuesday in Ireland, but is preparing to launch in a much larger market, Italy.

Taiwan’s Largest Transit Ticketing Service Plans Bluetooth-Enabled Mobile Ticketing, Though Needs Regulatory Approval

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Taiwan’s EasyCard Corp., the operator of the country’s largest closed-loop transit and retail payments service, is working with a provider of Bluetooth-enabled mobile payments technology to offer customers an NFC-like experience to pay for rides and purchases in stores.

Australian Domestic Debit Network Nears Launch of Token Service Provider to Compete with Visa and Mastercard

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Australia’s largest domestic debit network, eftpos, plans to launch its overdue tokenization service commercially by the second quarter, likely serving at least one of the country’s big four banks for its HCE mobile wallet and one or more of the “Pays” wallets, such as Android Pay and possibly Apple Pay, NFC Times has learned.

Certification Issues and Legal Battle Delay Launch of Kerv Ring; Wearables Maker Says Ring Ready

NFC TIMES Exclusive – After two years addressing design, certification and legal issues, UK-based start-up Kerv Wearables says it’s finally ready to launch its NFC-enabled ring.

Exclusive: Why are Some of the Largest U.S. Merchants Balking at Supporting NFC?

NFC TIMES Exclusive – While the base of contactless point-of-sale terminals in the U.S. has grown substantially over the past two and a half years, some of the country’s largest merchants continue to resist the idea of accepting such NFC wallets as Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Exclusive: Taiwanese Banks to Pay Apple Cut of Transaction Fees on Par with U.S.

NFC TIMES Exclusive – TAIPEI, Taiwan: Apple will collect a cut of transaction fees from Taiwanese banks on credit card transactions that is around the same level as the tech giant takes from U.S. credit card issuers, when Apple Pay launches in Taiwan, expected later this month, NFC Times has learned.

Analysis: Why QR Codes are Challenging NFC to Enable Mobile Payments

NFC TIMES Exclusive – Despite the resurgence in demand for NFC technology with the launch of Apple Pay in 2014, followed by other NFC-enabled “Pays” wallets and the separate rollout of HCE technology by Google, use of QR codes for mobile payments continues to grow in popularity globally.