Visa has approved a new method of contactless payment that endows existing smartphones with NFC-like capabilities via a special microSD card. Developed by a company called DeviceFidelity, the In2Pay cards are currently supported by the Samsung Vibrant Galaxy S variant from T-Mobile, BlackBerry Bold 9650, and all Apple iPhones save for the first generation; before you go crying that these latter handsets lack expansion slots, keep in mind that the cards are inserted into a case which hooks up to the dock connector. Visa claims that more phones, including Symbian and Windows Phone 7 models, will eventually gain compatibility as well; we assume that WP7 handsets, most of which lack user-accessible microSD slots, will require a similar solution to the iPhone family.
One thing that concerns us about this technology is that there’s been no mention of the cards offering any storage capacity, meaning that you’ll seemingly have to swap out microSD units on the fly or make the decision to trade convenience for capacity. Not to mention that Google’s new flagship handset, the Nexus S, doesn’t contain a microSD slot either; it’s built-in NFC hardware would seem to obviate the necessity for an In2Pay card, but we’ve heard that the hardware can only receive, and not transmit, data.
With this latest solution plus NFC support in Gingerbread and similar plans from RIM, it seems that America may finally be ready for widespread payment-by-phone, something that has been commonplace overseas for years now. Of course this new method of payment will have its downsides as well: once critical mass has been reached with the coming contactless rollout, your phone suddenly becomes a much more attractive target for muggers, who will soon be racking up purchases while you struggle to locate a payphone to call the credit card company.