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U.S. Bank Launches ‘Go Mobile’ Beta in Two Cities with iPhone NFC Add-On

U.S. Bank has announced the “beta” launch of its Go Mobile service in two cities, using microSDs and an NFC-enabled case for the iPhone.

U.S. Bank, the No. 5 commercial bank nationally, has extensively trialed the technology, which is supplied by U.S.-based DeviceFidelity.

The bank said it would launch the beta service to new FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature account holders in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Portland, Ore., before introducing it “more broadly in 2013.”  

The NFC-payments service is available only on the iPhone 4 and 4S models, since the iPhone attachment from DeviceFidelity is not ready for the iPhone 5.

The Go Mobile app for the iPhones is available to new customers in the two cities who are approved for the bank’s FlexPerks card and who opt in for the service. They would receive a free iPhone case from the bank, along with a card that carries an EMV chip, which they could use in the U.S. and also in chip-and-PIN terminals abroad.

The microSDs store a Visa payWave application. The case, DeviceFidelity’s iCaisse4X, carries a full NFC chip, the PN544, from NXP Semiconductors, along with an embedded secure element supplied by STMicroelectronics, the ST33, DeviceFidelity CEO Deepak Jain told NFC Times. The 4X case also offers extended battery life.

It’s the same implementation that the Isis telcos in the U.S. plan to launch soon for their two-city trial in Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas. Jain said Isis wanted the ST chip in part because it offers more memory for applications. The chip carries a total of 1.2 megabytes of flash memory, about half available for services. DeviceFidelity had been using both an NFC chip and secure element from NXP.

U.S. Bank launched its first trial of contactless microSD cards in late 2010 and extended it to a number of cities. It hasn’t released results of the trials publicly. But in its announcement Thursday, the bank’s chief innovation officer, Dominic Venturo, said the bank has “incorporated all of the feedback we have received from prior pilots and our customer research into this latest offering.”

The bank did not specify what it meant by plans to introduce the technology “more broadly” in 2013.

“They have been looking at all options (for mobile payment) just like every bank elsewhere,” DeviceFidelity’s Jain told NFC Times.

He said he expected DeviceFidelity's iPhone 5 case to be ready for production by the second quarter, following certification by Apple and the payment schemes. Jain blamed the delay on Apple's new nine-pin dock connector for the iPhone 5.

Datacard Group will personalize the Visa payWave application issued by U.S. Bank for the microSDs.

A number of other banks have trialed DeviceFidelity's technology, with mixed results. The banks used earlier versions of the iPhone case, as well as contactless microSDs that could be inserted into non-NFC-enabled BlackBerry and Android phones.

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