This week, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will be launching his new startup called Square, which is a mobile payment system that allows merchants and individuals to do business or process credit card transactions by using mobile devices to scan credit cards, debit cards or prepaid cards. According to Square’s website, the initial inspiration came from one of its founders Jim McKelvey who had an experience early this year where he wasn’t able to sell a piece of his glass art because he couldn’t accept credit card payments. For now, the Square software only works on the Apple iPhone and the iPod Touch but will eventually be made available to different mobile platforms like Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, etc.
The process is made possible by a small, square (hence the name Square), stamp-sized plastic device that you plug into a mobile phone’s headphone jack. As soon as the unit is plugged on a device, it automatically turns it into a wireless credit card terminal. Users then swipe the card into the “square” and then, the card information is converted into an audio signal which is then processed and encrypted by Square’s software and transmitted for further processing to Square’s servers via WiFi or 3G connection. Users can confirm the card holder identity with photo verification and the user signs the transaction using the mobile device’s touch screen. Paper receipts are eliminated and users can opt for either an email or SMS text that contains a link to the transaction receipt. Another thing to note is that for every transaction you make using Square, they will donate a penny (1 cent) to a charity/cause of your choice.
As of this moment, its still uncertain whether Square will be charging for the plugin device and/or for the account. In his interview on the Los Angeles Times, Dorsey said that the plugin device are so cheap to make that they might consider giving it away for free to Square account users.
Popular tech blogger Om Malik of GigaOm sees Square’s potential to be a disruptive technology* in the POS (Point of Sale) industry and has this to say:
“Verifone makes a $900 wireless credit-card terminal vs. Square, which runs on a $299 iPod touch. I rest my case,”
I see Square as a very useful tool not only for individuals like me but I see that it will be most beneficial for small business owners and street vendors like McKelvey, who can’t accept credit card, debit card and prepaid card payments because they don’t have the necessary hardware. Square looks very promising and can definitely start a new revolution in the micropayment/mobile payment and POS industry like what Om Malik said.
Square is still in beta testing right now but will be made available to the public next year, 2010.
What do you think of the Square mobile payment system? Would you consider it as a disruptive technology? If you had access to it would you use it? Please share your thoughts.
*disruptive technology – innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect.