Almost 2 years ago, Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey founded a company called Square, and released an eponymous service and iPad application that promised to revolutionize the way that people pay and get paid.
Signing up for the free service netted you a free card reader that plugged into the headphone jack and allowed you to take credit card payments on your iOS device. A while later, Square released Card Case, an iPhone app that let you start a tab and pay using your name at any business that utilized the Square system. I’ve been absolutely fascinated by both of these apps, and all of the things that Square has been doing since. So much so, in fact, that I’ve often wished that I had a small business of my own, just so I could use this more often.
We’ve talked about Square before, so I won’t go into the specifics of how the service itself works. Instead, I want to talk about a new addition to the service. Last week, Square added a third iOS app to their lineup: Square Register. Register takes the register-like features of the original Square app, and fleshes out functionality to provide a more POS-like experience. Interested to see what Square Register does for you that the original Square app might not? Read onward!
Unfortunately, the Square service is currently only available in the US.
Why Not the Original App?
Square was a brilliant app designed for both iPad and iPhone. The interface was gorgeous and functional, and the service was pretty groundbreaking. But the original Square app simply wasn’t prepared to handle POS transactions to their fullest extent. I think that the original idea behind Square was that it would streamline the payment process for people like independent contractors, or crafters who sold their work at a flea market booth, for example. It simply wasn’t ready to be a cash register replacement in a small business like a coffee shop or retail store.
However, since release, Square has been adding features and functionality, including support for receipt printers and cash drawers, that have been moving the app closer to this goal. Square Register is the software boost it needed to take that final step.
Register lays out your options more like a touch screen point-of-sale system would. A beautifully designed grid of your inventory (that helpfully gives you access to more than ten items at a time) is displayed alongside your customers receipt, and several pages of this inventory (called “Favorites”) can be accessed via swipe gestures.
The layout of your Favorites pages can be intuitively changed on the fly with the Edit button on the Item Library screen. This takes you into the familiar blueprint mode and allows you to add, remove, and change the position of each inventory item on the page. I should note that in the original app, changing this layout required you to go into the Account Settings.
Another feature that is accessible without entering the Settings menu (in contrast to the original Square app) is the Recent Activity list. A panel on the left side of the screen slides out with a swipe to the right, and displays your recent transactions, allowing easy access to functions like issuing refunds and printing receipts.
And, as is the case with the original Square app, receipt signatures still take place directly on the screen, with the option to send receipts via email or SMS, or print to a connected receipt printer.
The interface improvements and modified layouts are nice, but what takes Square Register up to the level at which it needs to be in order to serve as a cash register replacement is the impact it has on customer service. I have quite a bit of experience in “working behind the counter” at a business that might use a service like Square, and nothing is more frustrating for both the customer and the worker than a slow experience at the register.
Having access to all of the most useful tools you’ll need when dealing with a customer (such as sales history, receipt lookup, and the ability to give refunds) really streamlines the at-the-register experience for the customer.
I know this is a review of the iPad app, but I can’t leave you today without briefly mentioning the changes that Square has made to their web portal, because it’s a part of what makes Square such an attractive option for managing your small business finances. When you log in to your Square account from a computer, you’ll be able to see realtime data reflecting your sales, profits, cash-to-credit card ratios, tax, and more. This means that you don’t have to be the one working the register (or even at your store) to check in and see how the day’s sales are going.
As I said before, I’ve been fascinated by Square and what they’re doing since it first launched in May 2010. I think Square is indicative of the changes happening in this generation of technology. App developers and visionaries aren’t simply there to make improvements to the ways we do things, but rather are on the leading edge of creating radically different solutions to problems that we may have grown to take for granted.
Particularly in conjunction with cash drawer and receipt printer capabilities, Square Register is definitely the addition that the Square lineup needed to make it a completely viable alternative for managing the sales that your small business does on a daily basis. And like it’s predecessors, it remains absolutely free, so there’s no reason for you not to try it out. Let us know what you think, and if you own a small business, tell us if Register has the potential to become your financial solution!