Breaking: Visa to bring NFC mobile payments to the iPhone

A joint press release from Visa and DeviceFidelity has appeared on the MarketWatch website which reveals that the two companies have developed a protective case for the iPhone that will enable users “to make payments by simply waving their iPhone in front of a contactless payment terminal.”

According to the announcement, the product has been certified by Apple and works with both iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G devices. In February, Visa announced it would be running a series of NFC payments trials using DeviceFidelity’s MicroSD format NFC device. The lack of a MicroSD slot in the iPhone meant that iPhone users would have been excluded from participating in these tests, however — until now. “Market trials of the payment-enabled iPhone are scheduled to start this summer,” the press release concludes.

The announcement includes a link to video content featuring the device in action and interviews with Dave Wentker, head of mobile contactless payments at Visa, and Amitaabh Malhotra, COO of DeviceFidelity. At the moment, however, the link is not live and, unusually, the press release is not available on either Visa’s or DeviceFidelity’s website and does not seem to be available from any other news sources.

We’ll have more details as soon as possible. In the meantime, here is the full text of the press release:

Visa Inc. and DeviceFidelity, Inc. are working to allow Apple iPhone(TM) users to make payments by simply waving their iPhone in front of a contactless payment terminal. The new technology, developed by DeviceFidelity and certified by Apple, combines a protective iPhone case with a secure memory card that hosts Visa’s contactless payment application, called Visa payWave. The technology will work for both iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G devices.

iPhone users will be able to make Visa mobile payments in retail stores, at fast food restaurants, in taxis, during sporting events (such as at baseball games), and also make purchases at vending machines that have contactless payment terminals. Thousands of merchants throughout the U.S. have already upgraded their payment terminals to allow consumers to make Visa mobile payments. The technology will also work with a majority of smart phones that have a slot for a memory card. By simply inserting the card into the memory slot on their phone, mobile users can transform their existing mobile phones into a Visa payment device. Visa has already rolled out a similar technology in Malaysia and Japan, where consumers can make mobile payments in stores and restaurants.

The mobile payment application can be password protected and utilizes advanced security technology to uniquely identify each contactless transaction. In addition, all Visa mobile payments are backed by Visa’s global processing network and analyzed for potential fraud in real-time. If a mobile device is lost or stolen, account holders should contact their issuer, as they would if their card was lost or stolen. The issuer can immediately deactivate the account. Market trials of the payment-enabled iPhone are scheduled to start this summer.

Update: Video footage of the device in action has appeared on the web, then vanished again soon afterwards. Read more details and a description of the device here.

• You can also find more details on Apple’s own plans for NFC, iTunes and the iPhone here.

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