Almost lost amid the flood of new devices announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona overnight was a notable sign of progress toward the tech industry’s longtime aspiration of replacing old-fashioned wallets with digital ones.

Isis, a joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, says it has reached agreements with Chase, Capital One and Barclaycard to put their credit, debit and prepaid cards into a digital wallet for mobile phones — a secure app that will let people use their devices rather than plastic to pay for items at stores.

The joint venture also provided the first public glimpse of the Isis interface. The app works via Near-Field Communication technology, or NFC, letting users tap their phones to pay at the register.

Isis is planning to test the Mobile Wallet later this year starting in Salt Lake City and Austin.

The joint venture last year announced agreements with Visa MasterCard, Discover and American Express. Phone makers including HTC, LG, Motorola Mobility, RIM, Samsung Mobile and Sony Ericsson have signaled plans to release NFC-enabled phones.

Sprint, the only one of the four major U.S. wireless carriers not involved in the joint venture, is working separately with Google on its alternative Google Wallet initiative.

Isis, based in New York, also has an office in Bellevue.

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  • Jay Gould

    Isis’ announcement about its partnership with the card issuers reveals why Google is leading the digital wallet field. Well, that and the fact that Isis hasn’t even launched its service yet and will not do so until July, if current schedule holds, while Google Wallet has been up and running since September of last year. Instead, Isis should be busy building relationships with its users, using the card issuers as nothing more than vendors. That is exactly what PayPal has been doing for so long now and is one of the reasons for its great success. For a more detailed analysis:

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