You’ve probably seen an Apple POS systems, even if you din’t realize it. Just stop in at any hip coffeeshop and take a look at the counter. Do you see a while plastic case cradling a tablet on a rotating stand? Inside of that stand is an iPad. Many of these iPads were initially provided by Square, the credit card processing company, but since then Apple POS systems have become popular with many small businesses.
The Square terminals in particular take an interesting hybrid approach to processing credit cards. First, the customer hands their credit or debit card to an employee. Then, as expected, the employee swipes your card. But then, the employee rotates the screen towards the customer to collect their signature and, incidentally, ask for a tip. When the customer is done, they’re prompted to turn the screen back to the barista. This readies the terminal for the next transaction. But why table and Apple POS systems like this become so popular? Let’s consider the reasoning.
Despite the lack of official POS branding or support, Apple POS systems can be found in all kinds of small businesses. With this approach, you don’t need an expensive cash register or complex embedded payment system. Of course, you’ll still find customized Micros systems at high-volume chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Starbucks, where reliability and programmability is key, but a vintage dress shop doesn’t require that kind of performance. They can get by with an iPad embedded in a payment terminal, or even just with a credit card dongle attached to the headphone jack or Lightning port. The most popular Apple POS systems are significantly cheaper and easier to maintain than traditional POS systems, which has helped them become popular with new business owners and smaller merchants.
Tablet-based point-of-sale systems have one unshakable advantage over more traditional cash register terminals: you can easily take them with you. You don’t need a wired phone line for processing cards, and you don’t need to try and drag a 100-pound terminal with you. With just a super-portable iPad and a credit card dongle, you can accept credit cards at craft fairs, bake sales and outdoor industry shows. Considering that most younger consumers don’t even carry cash anymore, credit card processing is now required at what would have once been cash-only events. Without mobile credit card processing, merchants must either rely on their customers to carry cash or use antiquated, paper-based methods.
Apple POS systems can also use modern payment methods. Square terminals, for example, can accept Apple Pay with an additional hardware dongle. If you use an old-school payment system, even getting hardware support for Apple Pay might be too costly or complicated. And if and when a new digital payment standard comes along (Bitcoin, maybe?), tablet systems can easily add support for that too. Because embedded systems don’t have as much capability at the hardware level, they can’t be modified as easily or cheaply.
Ease of Use
Setting up a cash register payment system is a pain. It’s possible to set up an embedded system by yourself, but it won’t be easy. You’ll often need a full day to figure out how to work the thing, or you might need even need n expert to come and set it up for you.
Tablet based payment systems are so easy to use that even customers can use them. You need just about no training to make it work. Nearly everyone is familiar with apps, you need only basic computer literacy to figure out which button to tap. And the software that supports payments is designed to be simple, and therefore easy to use. This does typically mean that the POS systems are not as powerful as deeply customized embedded systems, but it covers the basics required by the vast majority of merchants.
Most merchants are familiar with iPads. And if they’re not, it’s dead simple to pick up basic skills. iPads are easy to understand, and a merchant might even own one already. This means programming Apple POS systems is relatively easy. That can’t always be said for embedded payment systems, which ship with the bare minimum of features and can require extensive custom programming to get running properly. Many point of sale apps uses the same easy-to-understand design metaphors that power-user apps like Workflow feature, providing massive power with a graceful interface. This means that savvy users can be their own techs, avoiding complicated and costly.
You might also like: