A few week ago I spent the weekend in Austin eating BBQ, watching my alma mater get crushed by the University of Texas, and sampling the Sixth Street ambiance.
But the highlight for me was the The Hideout Coffee House. Not only did it have great coffee and eclectic furnishings, but card customers could pay via Square through an iPad mounted in a novel wood stand (see inset; it's not possible to see well, but the ipad stand is on the counter at left).
The barista took my card and swiped it through the Square reader, which was supported by a wood guide (see similar unit left from Tinkering Monkey). Then he flipped the case over 180 degrees so it faced out towards me (see below).
It was easier to use than most in-lane POS readers, even contactless ones, because the barista actually did the swipe. It eliminated the uncertainty about when I should tap/swipe or whether it worked or what I should do next. And I loved being able to put a tip on the card with the push of a button rather than writing it on a piece of paper or digging for change.
Bottom line: Eventually payments will be made via proximity and settled in the cloud (my mobile will know I'm in the store and will automatically pair me to the store's POS). But there is still a long transition period ahead.
Tablet/smartphone card readers are a great interim step for smaller merchants (note 2), especially with the price wars waging at the point of sale (note 3).
Related: And banks, even though you don't have the POS issue, you can equip your frontline staff with iPad-powered sales tools (note 4).
1. On one of the Austin freeways, I also saw a billboard for the ISIS pilot. But I didn't see any merchants promoting it.
2. And some bigger ones. And of course, the 20,000-store Gorilla, Starbucks, is partnering with Square, though it is unlikely they'll use iPads at the point of sale.
3. Bank of America recently jumped into the game matching Square's 2.7% discount rate.
4. Barclays just bought 8,500 iPads to equip its branch sales staff (Financial Brand post).