Blog Post

Twitter Co-Founder’s New Project Revealed: iPhone Payment System

Stay on Top of Emerging Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

square-iphone-receiptJack Dorsey, who basically built Twitter from the ground up in its initial incarnation, isn’t on board with the social media site anymore, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been keeping busy. Recent evidence suggests that he’s responsible for a new iPhone payment system that could revolutionize the way we buy stuff.

By way of a new iPhone app and an accompanying hardware dongle that appears to operate via the phone’s headphone jack, the Square iPhone Payment system allows users to take on-the-spot credit card payments of any amount, at any time, so long as the phone has a valid network connection.

Square has previously been blogged about in the tech community, but Jack Dorsey’s involvement wasn’t revealed until Engadget spotted the domain name “” on a receipt, and followed the breadcrumb trail via a WHOIS profile that revealed the domain is registered to someone with the contact email [email protected] Squirrel is the codename for Dorsey’s super secret follow up project that he’s tweeted about in the past. It’s not difficult to connect the dots from there.

The system definitely has lots of promise. It could mean that anyone with an iPhone could accept credit card payments quickly and easily, without a lot of expensive intermediary steps. It may not be the social media wildfire that Twitter was, but it could generate the same kind of excitement in the retail community, especially among small business communities. Theoretically, even people selling services and goods via Craigslist or Kijiji could accept credit card transactions using Squirrel/Square.

No information yet on when the software/hardware combo will be available for wide release, but the alpha testing was reported as being underway in August.

16 Responses to “Twitter Co-Founder’s New Project Revealed: iPhone Payment System”

  1. I want this exact idea for my small business. I’m tired of not being able to accept credit or debit cards as easily as cash due to the high fees and up front costs. This idea is a win/win for small business and consumers.

  2. A device like this has a lot of promise. Many small business owners especially sole proprietors (think barbers, the AVON salesperson, the guy who comes around to wash your car etc.) want to accept physical credit cards but can’t afford the expense of a traditional point-of-sale terminal. Traditional point-of-sale terminals use a phone line to dial out for authorization when you swipe your card. So, it also is valuable when there is no landline available (like in third-world countries or businesses that don’t operate out of a fixed location).

  3. Gazoobee

    @ Rory:

    Thats a good point re: the headphone jack. Hadn’t thought of it.

    I still would argue that a more solid attachment on the bottom of the iPhone (accessory port), that you can swipe a card through is going to be both preferred and far less awkward than anything “hanging on a string” from the headphone jack.

    If it turns out to be an iPhone only solution then it still makes no sense, but as you say if it’s intended for lots of devices then USB or headphone jack may be a good move.

  4. katiepea

    businesses still won’t even issue iphones to employees because they’re highly insecure and toys. nobody really believes that anyone, with any credibility or cause for concern regarding security, would actually use this do they?

    • Large businesses may not issue them, but for individuals, like artists who attend arts festivals, small shop owners that like to be on the edge, and things of that nature, this is perfect.

      Heck, as a freelancer having a meeting with a client and have an invoice needing squared up, pull this out and your set.

  5. Gazoobee

    No, I understand just fine. The article mentions a dongle but it says that it connects to the headphone jack. I know there is a dongle, it just makes no sense that it would connect to the headphone jack.

    Apple licenses the hardware accessory port for … accessories. It’s pretty clear that they want people to use that port for hardware extensions of the iPhone.

    It’s also pretty clear that anything sitting in the headphone jack is going to be a hassle in at least some situations, even if it’s a passthrough connector.

    • Yes, the headphone jack doesn’t make sense until you think of the other touch devices that exist or are the way. Going with the headphone jack gives them the ability to build apps for a variety of devices.

    • Using the headphone jack enables them to get around licensing for the accessory port, thus, keeping their costs down. Also, it is possible that other devices could support this later. Future-proof and keep your costs down. I mean it’s a no brainer.

  6. Gazoobee – you didn’t understand the article at all. This is aimed at people selling items who would presumable take a credit card transaction for payment on the spot. I’d assume the dongle thing is a credit card reader. Anyways, I’m not sure I’d trust anyone with my credit card nor do I understand how this would be better than paypal, google checkout, or the myriad of other ways that are simple in terms of taking payments.

  7. Gazoobee

    Why the heck would they use the headphone jack? That seems dumb. It means you’d have to take your headphones out every time you want to buy something. Also, the Apple hardware licensing program only addresses the accessory port, not the headphone jack. That makes this thing kind of quasi-legal to start with.