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Verizon is OK With Isis Mobile Wallet Accessing the Secure Element on Your Phone, Just Not Google Wallet

Last week, we put together yet another new piece that discussed Verizon’s reasoning for not allowing Google Wallet to work on their NFC-equipped devices. In a response to an FCC complaint, VZW argued that since Google Wallet requires interaction with the “secure element” of a phone, that it’s different than normal applications, including other m-commerce apps. Since it needs to access this “secure element” in order to function, Verizon isn’t OK with it and has asked Google to make sure that it doesn’t work on their phones. However, with their own mobile payment app, they appear to be 100% behind an app using that same “secure element.” 

As you all know, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have been working on their own NFC-based mobile payment system known as Isis Mobile Wallet. It’s essentially identical to Google Wallet. Many of us have argued over the last year that these three carriers are simply blocking Google Wallet because they have their own payment system in the works, something that they all deny. While we may never know the complete truth to the story, this latest find by one of our readers who installed Isis on his Galaxy S3 is certainly worth mentioning.

In the screenshots above, taken directly from the Isis Mobile Wallet app on a Verizon Galaxy S3, you can see mentions of the previously talked about “secure element.” In fact, the phone requirements for the app speak of this “secure element” as a “dedicated component in your phone” used to store payment cards and everything else needed to properly run a mobile payment app with NFC. Basically, that’s everything that they said was bad about Google Wallet, and that if Google removed this requirement, that its app could be used on Verizon phones.

We had initially tossed out the idea that maybe Verizon was asking Google to add in NFC-SIM requirements to the app, since Isis works with newly created NFC-SIM cards. Whether that is or was the case, it doesn’t appear to matter, as Isis will still use the “secure element” inside your phone, which again, is the same “secure element” that Verizon mentioned as the reasoning behind their stoppage of Google Wallet. They clearly are OK with their own mobile payment app accessing this.

Look, we could probably argue and complain about Verizon and other carriers’ ridiculous control over smartphones for days, but in the end, these are all just more reasons to think about leaving your carrier and buying an unlocked phone like the Nexus 4. Once you have freed yourself from contracts and the subsidy cycle, your mobile experience will be so much more open and free.

Cheers Christopher!

  • Jason

    Verizon did not like how the app accessed the OS. So they did not want to put int on thier phones. So they created thier own with the NFC-SIM card which if you lose your phone they can freeze the wallet so no one can access your money unlike Google wallet.

  • JT

    I think Google should block Isis from the Play Store and tell Verizon we can play that game too…Google owns the store and software that Verizon’s phones run they can do the same thing right back to Verizo

  • Tony Graziano

    There are factors here in making Verizon and any other carrier remove their blocks for Google Wallet. Perhaps Verizon was right in requiring the data if stored on the phone is secure. Google updated Wallet to store the card data on their servers and not on the phone anymore. The only remaining question is if the google wallet pin is stored on the phone or on google’s servers. If all of this is stored on the server for google wallet, verizon has to make up another reason to deny the application. While there is a lot of discussion, Google is not about to file a lawsuit against Verizon and Verizon is not about to stop carrying android devices.

    It would be up to the consumers to file a petition with the FCC to ask them to investigate it. The question is since this involves payment and commerce (and there are other ways to pay), does it even fall under the FCC’s jurisdiction? My guess is that it doesn’t (yet) and would have to be looked at by the FDIC who is clueless on this type of thing. We can’t look at Europe where NFC is in greater use because their banking and telecom rules are very different altogether.

    It becomes clear the lawmakers in the US and the FCC need to formulate oversight to more align itself with where the technology is heading. Right now the FCC can rule as to whether Verizon is acting “anti” competitively, and I would venture to say they would not rule that way. Why? Stabucks, square and other payment forms are not blocked. So how does Google Wallet get into Verizon phones (legitimately)?

    Google needs to up the ante and offer Wallet in a way that gets around Verizon’s crybaby stance. It appears they are doing just that and have announced even more changes to make the application more plentiful.

    • That’s exactly where you’re wrong, Tony. Google does not need to turn into all the other apps for payment. Google created Wallet with NFC in mind. They have the support of major credit card companies as MasterCard, and Visa. Hell, half of the “other” mobile payments don’t really work in retailers, because the only thing their apps do, is create a barcode on your screen that the registers scan in. The problem with this is that 3/4 of the device screens will not allow a barcode laser to read. The reflection simply bounces back and creates an unreadable situation, which in turn, does not allow payment from your mobile devices.

      Google Wallet, however, utilizes the newest form of technology in which you simply tap and pay. This technology has been around for years in the form of PayPass and Visa’s PayWave technology, in which a chip, in Credit Cards would allow you the ability to simply wave your card in front of the machine. There is a wider spread of machines that already allow for this technology due to the fact that it has been around for much longer than today’s devices. Google simply perfected it on an NFC Device level.

      Also, the fact still remains that even if Google ups the ante and offers a different style wallet, in which a barcode, unable to be read by most laser scanners today, were to be created, They would let the carriers win while monopolizing their own form of Mobile Payment. I received an email (of which I posted the screenshot of in these very comments) that stated that Isis would need to set up the Secure Element ON my device… Whether this SE is the same as the one requiring access by Google, still remains to be seen, but all documentation would appear as such. It is simply not right for a carrier trying to monopolize on technology previously created yet one that is blocked for benefit of the carrier. That is what has all of us up in arms….

      A complaint (Probably many of them, by this point) has already been filed with the FCC, and the FTC. This action by individual carriers limiting End User Experience has to come to an end, and hopefully, the information I have passed onto Kellex, who then passed onto all of us, along with 6 other Android News sites, will assist in giving the end user the most enjoyable experience with minimal limitations.

  • Rick

    Google should buy Sprint, or T-Mobile, roll out 4G quickly, and tell Verizon to….. well I can’t politely say what they should tell Verizon to do here in a public forum.
    I bought a Samsung Galaxy “Nexus” (I use the term “Nexus” lightly) and it came preloaded with Verizon bloatware… and it was delayed for over a month, because of Verizon’s insistence that Google remove Google Wallet from their “Nexus” device.
    I’d love to see a Google Wireless provider, almost as much as I’d like to see Verizon pay for being so “Anti-competitive” and heavy handed.
    If another provider ever gets comparable coverage, all the ill-will Verizon has been building up with its customers through tactics like this, is going come back and bite them hard.

  • MKader17

    This is a great reason for Google to drop a HUGE lawsuit on Verizon for practicing a monopoly and refusing other services to promote something else they are involved with. You don’t have to worry about Verizon dropping Android as Verizon needs them just as much now.

  • crookedview

    I’d stick with the former.

  • Oh… Here’s another interesting piece of information contained in the official response to the FCC that states that Verizon doesn’t block users from downloading their app from the Google Play store….. That statement, is Faux as well…. Take a look at the screenshot I posted in reference to trying to download Google Wallet from the Google Play Store, via Google Chrome… Notice that in each of my devices, the app is unavailable for download as it’s “Incompatible with any of my devices” Now if Verizon wasn’t blocking the application, wouldn’t we be able to download it from the Play Store, WITHOUT the need to side load the app….. Lie Number 2 to the FCC on Verizon’s part…

  • DaRkL3AD3R

    F*** you Verizon.