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Near-field communication (NFC) was supposed to be the future, but while Google Wallet has mostly neutered its ambitions and Isis Wallet stumbled out of the gate, is there any hope for contactless mobile payments? The folks behind Loop say yes.
Loop announced Wednesday that its first mobile wallet hardware and iOS app are now available to U.S. customers, allowing consumers to store their credit or debit, gift and reward cards in the palm of their hands.
The free LoopWallet app for iPhone works in conjunction with one of two hardware components. The first is the Loop Fob, a small Square-esque dongle which is used to swipe existing credit or debit cards into a secure account. At nearly any retail point-of-sale terminal, the Fob is held close to the card swipe area and payment information can be magnetically transferred to the merchant, much in the same way physical cards do.
Shipping now for $39, the Loop Fob seems like an ingenious way to get around the fact that Apple doesn't seem interested in adding an NFC chip to the iPhone to enable "tap to pay," which many competing Android devices offer. However, the Loop Fob may actually be a better option, since it can be used plugged into the iPhone headphone jack or tucked away inside an included rubber sleeve and handed to a server or bartender.
Loop also offers a $99 ChargeCase for the iPhone 5 and 5s that frees the service from a dongle while increasing battery life by as much as 60 percent. Available in black or white, the ChargeCase is accepting preorders now, but won't ship until the end of April; the Loop Fob is shipping now.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter