The mobile-transactions startup that inspired many entrepreneurs to ditch their credit card terminals is now looking to grab even more of the small-business point-of-sale market. San Francisco's Square, which was co-founded by Jack Dorsey of Twitter, intends to bake more big-company features into a new app that turns the Apple iPad into a virtual cash register.
The new app, called Square Register, doesn't just accept payments, as its Square card reader does. Rather, it can stand in as a complete point-of-sale tool, working with existing free Square accounts and its iPhone and iPad credit-card swipe readers. Vendors pay the same flat 2.75 percent fee for every credit card transaction as they do with the Square card reader. The Square Register also comes with a full suite of analytics for business owners.
We gave the Square Register a try. Here are some of our impressions on how this can be a useful new storefront tool.
What registers: The Square Register has an intuitive user interface and can turn an iPad into a full service point-of-sale terminal as the company claims. Icons can be customized by text, colors, and pictures. A "favorites" page for most popular items should simplify and speed up check outs.
The system also sends receipts over email, text message or by print, when a compatible receipt printer is installed. A Star Micronics printer that is supported, for instance, costs $297. The Square Register can also support a traditional cash drawer.
As for the new analytics functions, Square Register tracks sales in real time and data can be monitored from any web-enabled device. Also, using multiple iPads can create a virtual cash register network in a business, which can be useful in the food service industry, for example.
What doesn't: While a potentially powerful new tool for bricks-and-mortar businesses, the downfall is that it requires an iPad to operate, not a dedicated point-of-sale terminal. Few traditional transactional systems support Apple equipment. That means using Square would require a migration to an Apple-based system. Purchasing an iPad, a receipt printer and cash drawer can cost $1,000 combined. The cash drawer does not need to be Apple-compatible.
There is also a danger that employees will misuse the iPad or that they it will be stolen. Then, there are the security issues. Square Register has PIN sign-ins to control certain actions such as issuing refunds but it doesn't support different levels of permissions or multiple PIN numbers to distribute accountability among managers.
Bottom line: For Apple-centric businesses, or those looking for a new point-of-sale solution, the Square Register can be a powerful new option. But for smaller companies with existing point-of-sale systems, the total cost to deploy it might be hurdle that's not worth jumping.