Forget ka-ching. It’s all tap-tap these days.
Restaurants and shop owners fed up with antiquated cash registers and expensive credit card terminals are switching to cheaper devices that plug into smartphones and tablets. And companies such as PayPal, Square Inc. and Groupon Inc. are rushing to meet them, developing sleeker stands to mount tablets running their software or hooking up with existing systems.
The shift is happening as mobile devices permeate many facets of consumers’ lives, including the way they shop and pay for everyday items.
There are players of all sizes in the burgeoning mobile payment systems industry, including big U.S. financial institutions such as Bank of America and small startups such as Square in San Francisco. It has become a crowded field, and some of the bigger players are expanding their products to set themselves apart.
“It was a very simple solution, which makes it very difficult to develop differences,” said David Kaminsky, senior analyst for emerging technologies at Mercator Advisory Group. “Now you see them trying to expand into these slightly more complex tablet systems.”
The standard bearer has been Square, among the first companies to enable credit card payments to be accepted on mobile phones through its Square Reader and app in 2010. It has since seen a big boom in the number of businesses and people using its app, and it is now processing more than $15 billion in payments annually.
The company said it plans next month to release what it calls Square Stand, which incorporates a built-in card reader that attaches to an iPad and a USB hub that connects to accessories such as a cash drawer, receipt printer and scanner.
For the cost of an iPad and $299 for the Square Stand, the company says small retailers can get a cash register that organizes their inventory and provides instant sales analysis.
That’s significantly lower than similar systems running on standard cash registers that can be cumbersome and cost thousands of dollars.
Analysts expect a dogfight as PayPal takes on Square, launching in the next few weeks an incentive program aimed at persuading businesses to dump their tills.