There's a new reason why it's hip to use Square, the $10 hardware that enables anyone to accept payment by credit card from a customer with an iPhone or Android device. The Pay With Square service lets you pay by voice.
Here's how, to paraphrase writer David Pogue in the New York Times:
Say you walk into a hotel. The front desk clerk's iPad displays your name and headshot image. The tablet recognizes your presence through Square's geo-location alert service.
The clerk rings up your bill. To pay, you speak your name. The clerk compares your face with the headshot and clicks to process your transaction.
Pay With Square functions without needing to take your phone out of your pocket, signing any paper, or punching in any personal identification numbers. It evokes a sci-fi feature anticipated in the 1980s US TV series Max Headroom.
To participate, the customer downloads the free apps for iPhone and Android, without needing hardware. Businesses accepting transactions need to install Square on iPads and a piece of $10 hardware.
Since June, Square apps began to allow customers to carry around a digital loyalty card, a replacement for paper and plastic swipe cards to reward frequent purchases. Discounts are automatically applied when a customer returns.
Pay With Square has been available since March 2012, as Wired first reported. But enough merchants and customers are installing the software now that it has the potentially to be used in real use cases.
The Square Card Reader is now for sale in 20,000 U.S. retail stores, such as Walgreens, Staples, FedEx Office, Apple, Best Buy, OfficeMax, Radio Shack, Target, and Wal-Mart. Merchants pay the company 2.75% of each transaction.
The fee is low enough that it allows merchants to accept tiny payments. In other words, no more signs saying "$10 minimum for credit card purchase." This in turn will create a move to cashless transactions, which will affect travel industry businesses still dependent on cash -- and partly off-the-books for tax purposes -- transactions.
Square can collect a lot of data thanks to usage records of its product. For instance, it can track user location patterns to potentially make targeted offers to frequent travelers and other customers.
Prior to this year, "geofencing"--where a businesses and customers can detect when each other is nearby--was a technology limited to iOS. Square is the first app to make geofencing mainstream for Android devices.
Created by Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter), Square is the leading player in the mobile payments market in the US.
Rival mobile payments company PayPal has created PayPal Here, with a stylish triangle-shaped card reader. It plans to push the product onto its 110 million users over time.
Battery life for devices will have to be increased to support the increasing demands that geo-location and other services make.