Isis' NFC payments go live in Austin and Salt Lake City: 3 carriers, 9 phones, 1 long way to go (video)

To say that the launch of Isis has felt drawn out would be a mild understatement. The alliance first signaled its intentions two years ago, detailed its first markets one year ago and faced a last-minute delay. All the ducks are finally in a row, however, and residents of both Austin as well as Salt Lake City can tap to pay (or score discounts) at the "hundreds" of locations that accept NFC-based purchases through American Express, Capital One, Chase and Isis' own cash card. Launch day brings app- and SIM-enabled access for nine devices spread rather unevenly across AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon: only the Droid Incredible 4G LTE is confirmed working for Verizon subscribers, while the rest are divided more equally between multiple Samsung Galaxies and HTC devices like the Amaze 4G and One X. Over 20 phones should be Isis-aware before the end of the year. It's a potentially strong start to one of the few truly cross-network mobile payment systems in the US, but we see a long road ahead before Isis gives Google Wallet some jitters -- there's legions of banks, cities and stores needed before Isis is widespread, and we're not counting on that ever-elusive universal hardware support.