I want a Mobile POS!
As it happens, I am looking for a Mobile POS device that is simple to operate and does not necessarily rely on an external mobile phone for connectivity … because it is going to be used by more than one person.
I may be something of a Poacher turned Gamekeeper, or maybe a Gamekeeper turned Poacher. I don’t know! I am definitely in the market for some (more than one) Mobile POS devices, but I am also letting you know that I have been working in the Payment Industry for the last 30-odd years and I did spend some of that time working for Worldpay. It won’t cloud my judgement.
So, I am writing this as someone who used to design, test and approve various card-based payment technologies, which is why I am not particularly bothered about the technical stuff … it’s interesting but it’s not the whole story. And anyway, the technical stuff is carefully monitored by the global card schemes so it’s all going to work pretty much the same way.
I am more interested in aesthetics, pricing and customer service … because that is what the customer sees, that’s what is going to affect your bottom line and that is what will save your sanity when things go wrong.
We are going to fall in love with one of the devices and we are going to be making the appropriate purchases … we don’t want to get it wrong because we are looking at a long-term relationship. When I say “we”, I really mean “I”, but if you follow the same thought process, you may well draw the same conclusion.
This comparison is therefore based on my experience, the usability of the devices and the broad requirements that I have started with.
They’re obviously not all of your possible Mobile POS choices, but if I was a seller looking for a new Mobile POS device, these would definitely be on my list. The fact is that I am a seller and they are on my list … so here it is.
One of the first to launch on the Mobile POS market was Square with a magnetic stripe reader that plugged into the headphone jack of your mobile phone. Swiping the customer’s payment card through the slot in the Square reader essentially played back the card number like a tape recorder playing back a tape. The mobile app listened in to the “sounds” created by the reader and translated them into card data.
A very simple and cost-effective method, but not suited to any part of the world that was issuing chip cards. Quite successful in the US but doomed just about everywhere else … and now that the US is issuing chip cards, its days are numbered.
The Square magnetic stripe reader is still supplied for use with magstripe-only cards, but there are very few magstripe-only cards in issue. Also, whilst it uses a standard 2.5mm jack, Apple doesn’t!
The Square magnetic stripe reader should not be used for chip cards; if a chip card is swiped in one of these devices, it should be declined by the card issuer.
Moving with the times, Square now provides a chip card reader that is paired with a mobile phone using Bluetooth. The card reader talks to the payment card whilst the paired mobile phone provides the POS functionality to support the card reader … and it also provides the onward communication.
The Square chip card reader is a simple device. Unlike some of the alternatives, there is no display and no PIN pad. The keying of the transaction amount and the PIN entry functions are performed on the paired mobile phone using a feature called PIN on Glass. This is not an issue for the completion of the payment but I have come across many people who just don’t like other people handling their mobile phone.
With Square, there is no alternative. If the transaction is to be completed, you will need to be handing what may be your personal phone to a stranger. So … if you don’t like your phone being handled by other people, this option is probably not for you.
The cost of the reader, at the time of writing, is £19 although you may be lucky enough to drop on a special offer: sometimes there is a 20% reduction on the first one that you buy. Additional readers are not discounted, they cost £19 and there is a matching charging cradle for the same price. You don’t need to buy a cradle as the reader charges using the USB cable provided.
Note: the table does not indicate “swipe” capabilities as these are not a feature of the reader.
I think this is one of the nicer looking machines on the market, which may go some way towards explaining why PayPal appear to have ditched their own “PayPal Here” offering and are now pushing the iZettle device. If you take a look at the iZettle website, it’s clear that iZettle is now a PayPal company.
That being said, the iZettle reader is a whole lot prettier than the little old grey box that PayPal had been selling … and as I have said, aesthetics are important!
Regardless of the fact that the iZettle reader is a pretty little payment device, the Mobile POS aesthetic is probably not the only reason. I think maybe the Trustpilot scores could have been the driving force behind some of the more astute executive thinking. In my experience, PayPal has always struggled a bit with customer service, which is reflected in the Trustpilot stars. The iZettle package is pretty much an off-the-shelf, self-improvement tool.
The question we should be asking ourselves now is whether the iZettle Trustpilot score will remain somewhere between 4 and 5 stars, or whether it’s going to head off in the direction of that already established by its new parent company.
One point to make – although it’s of little real significance in the big scheme of things – is that the iZettle Reader 2 does not accept magnetic stripe cards. This is explicitly stated in the iZettle product information, with the rationale that this functionality was removed for security reasons. I’m not sure if this was really the case, but it’s not a bad thing and it does help to keep businesses safe by decreasing (marginally) the chance of fraudulent transactions.
In the UK, we have been issuing Chip and Pin since around 2004. Contactless came along much more recently but both are a much safer form of accepting credit and debit cards. Even the US is in the process of catching up, especially for cardholders who travel outside the US! In my opinion, there is very little to be gained through the acceptance of magstripe, especially when you take into account the increased potential for payment fraud.
The differences between the Square reader and the iZettle reader is obvious: the iZettle reader is more than just a reader. There is an integral LCD display and there are four rows of buttons – one of them even has a tick! The primary function of the paired mobile phone is therefore to provide a communication link to the outside world.
Some of the apps available from iZettle can add value to your business by delivering additional services, further details of these can be found within the iZettle web pages.
There are clear advantages over the Square reader since all the consumer-focussed card payment functionality is included in the one device rather than being spread across two. My local Street Food vendor uses iZettle and it usually works. He enters the amount on his paired mobile phone, which is then displayed on the LCD screen for the customer to see before they tap the card and pay.
Using iZettle means that the seller never has to hand the mobile phone over to the customer, which I know is going to make at least some people happy. The question you need to ask yourself is whether this is worth the extra ten quid.
I have to say that since there is already a technical reason for there being two discrete devices (the card reader isn’t a part of the phone), my personal preference is for the customer button pressing to be kept separate from that performed by the seller. It just makes more logical sense. In the case of the Square product where there are indeed two devices, it would make sense for the functions of the two devices to be differentiated between the customer and the seller.
If you use Square, you have one device sitting at the customer side of the counter whilst the other device (the phone) is being passed back and forwards between the two. Makes no sense.
Pricing is reasonable and the Trustpilot stars indicate that customers are, on the whole, looked after.
You’re asking about the significance of the colours, aren’t you? Well, the green tag indicates that you are in possession of the newer iZettle Reader 2, which has been available since November 2018. The main difference between the two we have already touched on: it’s the newer model that doesn’t allow cards to be swiped. It’s also a few grams lighter and saves a bit more energy … if you’re interested.
The iZettle reader is a good product in my opinion … if you are not too bothered about everything being in the same case. The reader cost is £29 but this is a discounted price as your second reader will cost you £59. If you’re getting all excited and you want a charging dock, you are going to need to put your hands in your pockets for another £39.
Now, have I fallen in love with the Barclaycard Anywhere reader? Not really. It doesn’t look pretty but it does look pretty much the same as the one used by Worldpay … and the one that was, until recently, used by PayPal. I think it could actually be the same device.
As a retail solution, Barclaycard Anywhere sits right alongside the iZettle option. They even cost the same: £29. It also sits alongside both the PayPal solution and the Worldpay solution. The Barclaycard Anywhere reader, however, does not appear to be subsidised, but it probably is. I can’t say for certain because I can’t find any confirmation that a second card reader wouldn’t be costing closer to £59.
It might not be the prettiest, but technologically the Barclaycard Anywhere solution is going to be at least as good as any of the others. After all, they are all signed off to the same standards by essentially the same crowd of people … and I used to be one of them!
So if you want a solution that is based around a stand-alone reader paired with your mobile phone, then you are looking at one of the possibilities available to you … and at 1.6%, it looks like Barclaycard are offering a reasonably competitive rate. Check it out though as I wouldn’t want you to suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of hidden charges.
We’re looking at maybe 9 product options from 7 suppliers, and 3 of the suppliers play in the big boys’ league. I think sometimes that the big boys should be left alone to play with the big boys … because the big boys can sometimes play rough and sometimes the smaller boys get hurt.
I have nothing against any of the big players, but bearing in mind that Trustpilot stars are generally going to be assessed and awarded by individuals rather than corporations, we should probably take notice of the awarded Trustpilot stars. There does appear to be a higher level of dissatisfaction with the larger organisations. Having said that, I cannot really make any judgement on Barclaycard Anywhere because they don’t appear in the Trustpilot reviews.
I haven’t really got anything more to say about Barclaycard Anywhere. It does the job, the rates look attractive (by 0.15%) and the organisation is well established.
The SumUp web site begins its story with a statement about how important it is to let customers pay the way they want to pay. Whilst I completely agree with the sentiment, the statement is not strictly on the level since all of the options presented to the customer are all derived from standard payment cards:
- Chip and PIN
- Chip and Signature
- Watches and Wearables
So, it’s important to let customers “pay the way they want to pay” … as long as they pay using something derived from a payment card! It’s interesting but it’s not a subject for now – all these options (with maybe the exception of Swipe) are based on exactly the same base technology.
I wouldn’t worry, because card-based options are perfectly acceptable. The truth is that people go shopping for shirts (and other stuff); people do not go shopping for the excitement of completing their purchase with “Dongle Drops” (or whatever the current payment flavour of the month might be) however compelling paying with “Dongle Drops” might be.
The bottom line is that if you can support mainstream card payment options, you are not going to miss very much.
Most people are likely to have at least one Visa card or a Mastercard card in their possession but if you check the SumUp website, you will see the full range of accepted cards, which includes Union Pay. They are all priced at 1.69%, including American Express!
The SumUp Air is very much the payment device equivalent of the iZettle reader … and the WorldPay reader … and the reader provided by Barclaycard Anywhere. As I have said already, from a purely technical perspective, there isn’t really a lot to distinguish between them, which is why I suggest looking at the aesthetics and the Trustpilot stars.
I quite like the clean, modern lines of the SumUp Air reader, which is really not that dissimilar to the iZettle reader … maybe just a little shorter. It may be a squarer design but more importantly for me, SumUp has not yet been consumed by one of the big boys. Hopefully, this will remain the case for a long time but given the Trustpilot stat ratings, I would not be surprised if the company is not already on the radar.
SumUp can provide a range of accessories including charging docks and cradles, and the SumUp Mobile App is capable of doing quite a lot to support your business. If you are looking for features over and above the usual payment and receipt functions, you probably need to begin your research from the other end, check out and choose the back-end facilities first and then you can pick the reader that goes with it. There is no right or wrong way to approach this, it’s all down to what you feel is best for your business.
So, if your preferences are favouring the small card reader … with buttons, and you don’t want to be caught up with the big boys, the SumUp Air should be ticking all the boxes. At the time of writing, SumUp is also discounting the SumUp Air – use this link for your discount:
Note: The Reader Cost of £19 is the promotion discounted price. The usual price is £29.
Now we’re moving upmarket, but it’s moving upmarket with some justification … and it’s some justification to the point where it might not be worth reading any further.
For me, the SumUp 3G ticks all the boxes.
So let’s look at the boxes we are ticking here and let’s see if you agree with me.
The least important feature here in the UK is the SumUp 3G ability to accept MagStripe cards. It should also be the least important feature across the world, but some of the US card issuers are still issuing as if they were stuck in the 20th Century. MagStripe presents a higher transaction risk but if you are looking at a US citizen with no other means of payment, maybe the MagStripe slot is worth it not to miss the sale.
Next, for those amongst us who really don’t like handing our phones over to strangers, and there are lots of us about, this little device does the job. All the functionality that you need to accept card payments – and also those payments derived from card payments, like mobile – are included in this little hand-held device. There is a screen that confirms the payment amount and the status of the transaction and there is a keypad for keying the amount and accepting the cardholder PIN … no need for a phone.
Whilst we might be able to get over having to share our phone with a stranger for the duration of a transaction, there are circumstances where it just isn’t practical for a card reader to be linked to a mobile phone. There are occasions when several people may need to share a device and pass it around as necessary. This is no good if every time the device is passed from one user to another, it needs to be unlinked from the old phone a linked to a new one.
The SumUp 3G, as its name might suggest, doesn’t need to connect to a phone to communicate. If there is a local WiFi network that it can get access to, it will quite happily use that. If it can’t connect to a WiFi network it will use the Mobile Phone network instead.
If a payment device needs to be shared amongst a group, for whatever reason, it really needs to be self-contained, and this is exactly what I am looking for: a device that can take payments without unnecessary complexity. If I want you to be able to take over taking payments, I just want to be able to hand you the device!
With that in mind, the SumUp 3G comes with a built-in SIM. I’m not sure if it’s a physical SIM or if it’s part of the software, but I am sure that it’s free. It doesn’t need to be connected to a phone and it doesn’t use your data allowance. Winner!
The SumUp 3G accepts all the same card brands as the SumUp Air, and the transactions are charged at the same rate. It might be a bit more expensive than the smaller device but it does more … I think the benefits far outweigh the additional cost. You could argue that it’s not even an additional outlay if you factor in the cost of the mobile device and data allowance that you’re going to need to go with the alternative.
It’s also possible to mount the SumUp 3G on a printer base, which means you are getting a complete POS solution for stand-alone card payments in a very cost-effective package … and it looks nice!
It all depends on what you are looking for, there is a lot to be said for a device that works by itself. It does everything you want it to do, and it does it by itself. If you need to hand it over to someone else, that’s all you do: hand it over. There’s no messing about with Bluetooth and no sharing of phones. Everyone’s a winner.
According to myPOS, the myPOS Go stands out as being compact, multifunctional and affordable.
I can’t fault the statement but I’m looking for the catch. The functionality supported by the myPOS Go device matches that of the SumUp 3G … but it’s about a gazillion quid cheaper. If you take a look a the myPOS Go website page, there does seem to be a lot of mention of support from Mastercard but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t account for all the difference.
The myPOS Go is a small and portable device that accepts contactless and mobile payments as well as Chip and PIN and MagSripe cards and at the moment, if you buy the myPOS Go, you can get a Silicone Case for free.
Why would you choose myPOS Go?
Well according to myPOS Go, you should choose this device because it’s:
- eco-friendly and paper-free,
- it comes with a free DATA card,
- it has a powerful battery,
- it has a colourful LCD display
- it has a sturdy but light chassis, and
- it has a durable keyboard.
I agree that the myPOS Go is all of these things, but it isn’t pretty … is it? It might look ok in the back pocket of a Home Handyman, and that’s how it’s portrayed on the website, but I wonder how it would look on the counter of a chic boutique? I don’t think the designers had that in mind.
To be honest, I’m trying to find fault because I don’t like the look of the thing. It’s not that MyPOS don’t know what a good design looks like because they also sell the myPOS Mini, which is much more appealing to the eye but its price is nearer that of the SumUp 3G.
I guess you pay your money and you take your choice.
I can’t let my bias around the aesthetics take precedence over my practical assessment of this device, so it’s time for the head to rule the heart.
The myPOS Go does everything that you are going to need. It accepts all the card-based form factors and it doesn’t need to be paired with a mobile phone. The myPOS Go can support a WiFi connection or a constant wireless connection via 3G.
On that note, the myPOS Go package includes a free DATA card with unlimited mobile connectivity,
As they say: “Say goodbye to dependence on apps, software, network cables or a Wi-Fi network.”
Note: a promotion running until the end of February 2021 sees the rate reduced to 1.10%.
myPOS Go Glass
This device is different because it’s a mobile phone, it’s a mobile phone and nothing more. I have included this device because it’s different and because I worked on the original concept back in 2014 … it would be a shame to waste the experience. It’s clever but it has limited uses, so let me explain how it works – simply!
For a long time, most mobile phones have been capable of reading NFC tags, which are sort of like the radio equivalent of a QR code. It’s the same technology that drives contactless payment cards … so there was no reason why a mobile phone couldn’t read a payment card. If you want to go and have a look, there are lots of android apps that can read your bank card and tell you what’s on it, and they have been around for years – some work better than others but they all prove the concept.
I can sense that some of you are thinking that being able to read a payment card must be dangerous. It isn’t … the security features (keys) used during the transaction are simply not accessible from the outside the chip. They will always remain secret, and regardless of what you might have read in the press, these security features have never been hacked!
The real barriers to the implementation of the Mobile Phone POS were the global payment standards rather than the technologies. There was no framework to support the operation of such a device. Mobile Phones were not included in any class of POS device and existing PIN pad standards did not include PIN on Glass!
Over the years, the industry standards were developed and updated to include Mobile devices with glass screens and no buttons, and there is now a framework for devices like the myPOS Glass.
But, we’re not there yet. The service is currently available only on android; Apple hasn’t opened up access to the NFC features of the iPhone that would be needed to support the “Apple POS”. This may of course change in the future, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
Take a look at the YouTube video of the myPOS Go in action.
It’s clever, but its uses are limited. It’s contactless only, which does mean that it will work for cards, wearables and mobiles, but not for standard Chip and PIN cards, or MagStripe cards. However, the fact that most new cards are issued with contactless capabilities should mean that acceptance isn’t an issue. In addition, the PIN on Glass capability does mean that higher value transactions (those over the local contactless limit) can be supported without increasing the retailer’s transaction risk.
myPOS Glass is a simple way of implementing a POS requirement without having to buy a dedicated card payment device, and the transaction rates are pretty standard. There is no issue regarding connectivity – if the phone works, the POS functions will also work, so as long as you have an android phone and the necessary myPOS account, you can take card payments.
The one thing about the myPOS Glass that does stand out is the monthly fee. It’s going to cost you £4.90 per month to maintain access to the app. I think that’s a lot of money compared to something like the SumUp 3G, which is my personal favourite, or even the myPOS Go which in comparison costs virtually nothing!
When I was working on the original propositions for this kind of device – it wasn’t for myPOS I have to say – I never really felt the commercial imperative. I was convinced, however, that the concept had value in the wider retail space, and that it had the potential to change the retail landscape significantly in other ways, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m not sure that I have sold the myPOS Glass to you, but hey, what do I know?
Worldpay was a large organisation in its own right, processing around half of all UK retail payments. I am not stranger to Worldpay, I worked for Streamline – part the Royal Bank of Scotland – before it became known as Worldpay. Worldpay is still large but it’s now a small part of a much larger organisation.
Worldpay provide the payment processing power to many of the large UK retailers, and have done so for a long time. Large retailers and similar large business owners like Worldpay, because they are of a similar size. The question you must ask yourself as a smaller merchant is whether they are right for you?
The original Worldpay card reader was the Worldpay Zinc, launched in 2013 as a response to the payement market new boys: iZettle, PayPal Here and SumUp. It was a small reader, like the rest, but the Zinc merchant service resembled the more traditional Worldpay merchant service. Worldpay were essentially trying to add a smaller, more specialised payment device to their existing business practice.
The Worldpay Zinc is no longer available but Worldpay do offer an alternative: the Worldpay Reader.
The Worldpay Reader is functional, and it provides a basic set of payment functions through a mobile app called Worldpay POS. It looks a bit like one of those calculator devices that the banks provide to help secure payments. I’m not sure I can say much else, other than it’s out there in the real world so it’s passed all the accreditation tests and the card schemes are happy with it.
I would normally say now that you pay your money and you take your choice, but I can’t find very much at all about the Worldpay Reader pricing or the costs of the supporting services. There is no such information on the website, or at least none that I could find, which is odd since Worldpay advertise clear, competitive pricing. All I have are question marks, and I keep coming across reviews that tell me to beware of hidden charges.
I think Worldpay are more comfortable providing payment services to large retailers, and I think the entrance into the small retail market was a defensive move. I think this is born out by a lack of clear and obvious pricing, and the Trustpilot star score.
Update: the world is changing rapidly. I think that I could have left the Worldpay Reader out of the analysis. If you now go looking for Worldpay Reader on Google, all you will find are links to reviews telling you that the service isn’t the best, the pricing isn’t the clearest and a link to the Worldpay Reader Product Help Centre. All other searches for Worldpay take you to FIS.
It doesn’t matter whether you think the Worldpay Reader is pretty or not, it’s pretty well clear that you can’t get hold of one. Keep walking … nothing to see here.
I’m pretty sure that PayPal Here isn’t here anymore and that the only references to PayPal Here to be found are the support pages. If you are interested, this is what it looked like …
I have not removed the PayPal Here reference because it’s all part of the story.
Searching for PayPal Here will lead you to the PayPal Here Support Page, where it says that “new customers looking to accept card payments in-person should sign up for an iZettle card reader – our new, enhanced point of sale solution”.
Elavon is another big player. Elavon processes over 5 billion transactions across 30 territories every year … a combined value of $450 billion. If that’s the sort of statistic that will make you pick Elavon as your payment partner, then you not going to go far wrong.
As I have said before, the device technology isn’t particularly relevant as each Mobile POS is designed, built and tested to the same standards. It’s about the look and feel of the device … mainly the look.
If the Elavon MobileMerchant device does appeal to you, and I have to say that I like its look more than I like the look of the myPOS Go (yes I know they’re not the same and they don’t provide the same facilities, but they have the same sort of look about them).
Possibly the biggest incentive in favour of the Elavon MobileMerchant proposition is the fact that the first device is provided free of charge, at least as long as they are running the promotion. A second device will set you back £59.
I really don’t have a lot more to say about this device. It does the job and if you are looking for a big player to process your payments, Elavon is probably one of the better options.
The Reader Cost for the second reader is £59.
Mobile POS Comparative
I have been involved in the payment industry for a long time, mainly around cards, transaction processing and other wildly interesting stuff. I helped design and implement the first mass Chip and PIN card issue in the UK … I think at the time we issued around 12 million of them. Chip and PIN cards have been around since just after 2000 and whilst apple pay and android pay have come along since, they use the same underlying technologies.
I make this point to justify my comment about the technology and operation of the various devices. They all do the same thing in the same way … because that’s just the way it has to be. It’s definitely not a bad thing and it’s why your plastic card works in Bermuda in just the same way that it does in Bradford, and that’s why there’s very little point in making a big thing of it.
So it comes down to looks and customer service.
The Trustpilot stars remove the big players from the list, is sort of what I would have expected. The big players, in my experience, don’t tend to favour the little guy over the likes of Tesco. That may not be particularly surprising but it doesn’t help the little guy if the little guy has a problem
So, at this point, we’re left with:
- iZettle (reluctantly)
- SumUp Air
- SumUp 3G
- myPOS Go
- myPOS Glass
For the purpose of this exercise, I am going to rule out iZettle. I quite like iZettle but I am doing this because iZettle is now PayPal and PayPal is one of the big boys … and PayPal has had difficulty collecting Trustpilot stars. I see the scores but thirty years in the industry would prevent me from trying to challenge the collective judgement of the reviewers. I wouldn’t blame anyone for trying iZettle, because past performance is no indicator of future trends.
Next, I am going to rule out myPOS Glass. It’s an interesting idea that takes me back to 2014, but I am not convinced about its role in the hands of a small merchant. It’s android only and it doesn’t look like it’s a device that I should be pointing my card towards. These devices aren’t very common so it’s likely you would need to explain what you’re doing every time you want to take a payment.
Oh! And it’s going to cost you £4.90 every month.
Now we are left with two devices that you will need to pair with your mobile phone and two devices that don’t need a mobile phone.
I’m going to drop the Square reader, and I am going do this because the Square reader is little more than a myPOS Glass with a bolt-on card reader. It does have the advantage of being compatible with both android and apple but it still relies on the handset being passed from seller to buyer and back again. It might be alright for some but I think I’ll pass.
I’m going to bin the myPOS Go because I don’t like the look of it. Fickle maybe but in my book aesthetics count. If you like the look of this device, you should probably go for it. I don’t think that you will go far wrong and it might well be the cheapest option.
After due consideration, and I hope that you’ve followed my thought processes, I’m left with the two SumUp devices. I’m not saying don’t try any of the others, they will all do the job and they will all do the job well.
I am recomending to the local Rotary Club that they grab a couple of the SumUp Air devices and a couple of the SumUp 3G devices.
- the SumUp Air option is not a lot of cash, so really a bit of a no-brainer;
- whatever the club does, there will be a couple of members who are always involved with collecting the money, so their phones can be permanently paired to one device;
- the stand-alone option means that anyone else could collect money, without needing to pair a device to their phone;
- the SumUp 3G is a bit more expensive but it can be used by anyone.
So, if you want a cheap reader that you can pair with your phone, you’re covered … and if you want something that can stand alone, you’re covered.
Are you in love?