Visa and ANZ Bank Hold microSD Trial in Australia

Fifty employees of Visa Inc. and ANZ bank in Australia are testing microSD cards in Apple’s iPhone, Visa announced today.

The trial, which has been launched this month among employees from the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the two companies, puts a prepaid Visa payWave application onto microSDs cards, which are then inserted into special cases attached to the iPhone, according to Visa. Users can top up the prepaid accounts over the Internet. 

It is believed to be Visa’s first mobile-payment trial using microSD cards outside the United States and Europe. Four large U.S. banks, including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, have been testing the microSDs. Akbank in Turkey also has reportedly begun its planned microSD trial with Visa Europe. The ANZ pilot is also one of the few trials of contactless-mobile payment using a prepaid application.

According to Visa, the trial participants will be able to tap to pay for purchases under A$100 (US$99.54), with no PIN or signature required, at more than 20,000 merchant outlets in Australia that accept payWave.

"The possibilities with mobile are endless; your mobile could allow more than just payments­–you could manage your account, detect fraud and receive real time offers from merchants," Vipin Kalra, Visa’s country manager for Australia, said in a statement. "Your mobile could become the new virtual wallet–it’s in the future, but that’s definitely where we’re headed."

It’s not clear why the internal trial is needed, however, since Visa and other banks have already tested the technology, and Visa has certified the last three iPhone models, including the iPhone 4, to meet its performance and security standards. It has also certified some Android and BlackBerry models.

Certification would allow banks to roll out the technology using Visa's network. Though considered by many to be a bridge technology until full NFC phones arrive, microSDs could enable banks to introduce contactless-mobile payment without having to work directly with mobile operators on the NFC handsets.

The iPhone, which does not have a built-in microSD card slot, requires a case with a slot. U.S.-based DeviceFidelity supplies both the card and case.

All or most of the handful of other smartphones that have gained type approval from Visa to work with the microSDs require a booster antenna stuck inside the back cover of the phones to extend the range of the contactless antenna embedded in the tiny flash microSDs. The iPhone case, which DeviceFidelity calls iCaisse, has its own full-size antenna. The vendor also supplies the range-extender sticker.


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