The telecommunications companies behind the Isis mobile wallet joint venture have had Salt Lake City in their sights as a testing ground for the past year. But recent delays in the Isis rollout have opened the door for direct competitor Google Wallet to continue to gain as much momentum as possible with its mobile pay system.

And Google walked through that door last week, directly into a territory Isis had earmarked for its launch by announcing a partnership with Utah’s Associated Food Stores that will take effect in early 2013.

The partnership enables shoppers to redeem digital coupons inside the Google Wallet and pay at the point of sale with Google’s SingleTap technology from a near field communication-enabled smartphone.

Associated Food Stores provides warehouse facilities and services to more than 400 grocers throughout western regions of the country, the company stated in a press release.

Shoppers will be able to click on and save coupons from the Associated Food Stores website from their homes or in the stores, the company says. The shopper can store the digital coupons in their Google Wallet and redeem them while making payments through a smartphone.

In a comment that may make Isis officials cringe, David Rice, Associated’s executive vice president of retail, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “We analyzed many potential players in the mobile payments space, and no one compared to the experience and technological capabilities that Google brings to the table.”

But Isis issued a statement to PaymentsSource indicating it welcomed Google at every turn, whether it is Utah or other locations where the two mobile wallet providers figure to go head-to-head.

“Mobile commerce is a new industry, and we’re pleased other companies are helping educate the marketplace,” Isis stated.

“While we believe there will be multiple offerings available, we believe Isis’ open and inclusive strategy offers the scale, security and consumer experience necessary to drive widespread adoption of mobile commerce,” the joint venture added.

Isis’ statement rings true because the joint venture knows how Google operates and what to expect, says industry analyst Scott Strumello of New York- and London-based Auriemma Consulting Group. “It’s the old saying that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know,” he adds.

“If a different competitor came into that market, say an Apple Inc., with an entirely new mobile pay concept, then it might be different,” Strumello says.

Even though Google is a major corporation and the Isis venture is backed by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, the industry still views mobile wallet concepts as “startup businesses,” Strumello says.

“All startups have issues getting products out the door, and Google has faced challenges as well,” Strumello says.

Google likely felt the Utah market offered a place for widespread adoption of its mobile wallet, rather than simply viewing it as a state it had to make a splash in because of the Isis strategy, Strumello adds.

Isis has endured a couple of delays in its launch after proclaiming nearly all year that the service would be operating in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas by “the end of the summer.” Isis states the delays are based solely on planners finishing final tasks to ensure the launch unfolds with the best consumer experience possible. The joint venture intends to provide more information in October about the pending launch.

Isis also notes that information about the various handsets that will operate an Isis mobile wallet will also be announced. Because telephone carriers are at the core of Isis, the joint venture figures to have an advantage in the number of handsets accepting mobile payments technology.

Meanwhile, even though the Google Wallet currently operates on only six smartphone handsets, Google has been moving fairly quickly in securing consumers and issuers since providing an application designed to make it far easier to enroll credit and debit cards into the wallet.

Still, while Isis will be able to boast of more smartphones accepting the Isis mobile wallet, the joint venture has long had support from retailers and card issuers.

In the meantime, Salt Lake City remains an attractive location for mobile payment initiatives, as Firethorn Mobile LLC and Burger King Corp. continue testing a mobile pay system in Burger King restaurants throughout the city that features a virtual Burger King prepaid card.

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