With Apple Pay and Android Pay, mobile payments are easier and more accessible than ever, but there are still a few issues that have to be addressed before widespread adoption becomes possible.
One of these is the relative scarcity of the required hardware at the point of sale: There are currently about 700,000 stores with NFC technology installed at the cash register, but that’s less than a fifth of the roughly 3.8 million retail establishments operating in the U.S.
To help lower the barrier to entry for retailers large and small, mobile payments platform Square has created a new credit-card reader that can handle mobile payments from Apple Pay and Android Pay, among others. The reader costs just $49, and Square is going to jump-start adoption by handing out 250,000 of the devices for free to small businesses. Businesses who buy the reader will also be reimbursed by Square through a certain amount of free processing.
In additional to NFC transactions with mobile devices, the wireless reader can also handle payments from credit cards with security chips -- a key selling point, as businesses must switch over to readers that can read the new chip cards by the end of this year, in order to combat credit card fraud.
Founded in 2009, Square originally aspired to become a standalone mobile wallet and payments app with Square Wallet. However, it closed that service and has recently moved to align itself with bigger tech companies like Apple, whose apps are getting more traction with consumers.
Of course, Apple Pay now has some serious competition in the form of Android Pay, the new mobile wallet and payment app that will be part of Google’s new Android M operating system; as noted above, Square’s new reader also works with Android Pay.
Google has already struck deals with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, plus a number of banks including Chase, Citibank, Capital One, and U.S. Bank. Android Pay is also compatible with other apps for mobile e-commerce purposes.