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iPhone gets NFC tap-cash tech

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Discover is to run trials of pay-by-wave for iPhones in Chicago and Salt Lake City, despite having to strap the requisite radios to the outside of the Jesus mobes' cases.

Apple's iPhone doesn't have the required Near-Field Communication hardware, and NFC Times reports that for the trials Discover will be using the iCarte case, which has an NFC radio and secure component built in. The company is reportedly already testing Android and BlackBerry handsets, but reckons iPhone compatibility is essential.

"A good number of your cardholders are going to be iPhone users. As a network, I need a certified [iPhone] option," the company told NFC Times, explaining that the removable microSD solution touted by Device Fidelity wasn't an option as it adds another layer of complexity.

Device Fidelity's solution also needs a special casing too, as the iPhone doesn't have a microSD slot, but it does mean the microSD card can be switched to a different model of handset, taking the electronic wallet with it.

Discover calls its proximity payment system Zip, as opposed to Visa's PayWave and MasterCard's PayPass. All three systems use NFC technology to make payments and all three are already used in plastic cards, so it should be possible (one day) to have a single phone with all three installed, but don't hold your breath.

While the payment systems are settling into recognisable camps, the whole business of vouchers and electronic coupons is still up for grabs. US network operators have banded together to make ISIS, a platform that hosts the payment cards; in the UK all the operators (except Three) have formed a similar consortium. Those platforms will have to compete with Google Wallet, and other players who will no doubt emerge in the next year or two.

Discover says it's happy to create an instances of Zip that will install on the ISIS platform and Google Wallet, but it's also testing coupons of its own. For the trials those will be on-screen QR Codes or just displayed discounts to be shown to the shopkeeper, but even that demonstrates that Discover is far from ceding control of what's anticipated to be an important market. ®

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