Square: Hands On

The first guest during Guy Kawasaki’s feature presentation at Macworld was Jack Dorsey, who has recently changed his focus from Twitter to his new startup, Square.

Square’s goal is to allow anyone to easily accept credit card payments on their iPhone or iPod touch using a tiny dongle that fits into the device’s audio input. Imagine how easy it will be to buy or sell items through Craigslist using a credit card. What if your friend owes you money but he doesn’t have any cash? Plug in the dongle, which Dorsey claims will be initially free (although I can’t imagine that strategy lasting forever), launch the Square app, swipe your friend’s credit card, and you’re done.

Dorsey and Square are trying to improve the experience around credit card transactions. Instead of paper receipts, Square users can receive receipts via email. The image below is an example of one from when I visited Sightclass Coffee, a coffee shop in San Francisco that Dorsey often visits and was even mentioned during Kawasaki’s presentation (their coffee is delicious but the shop is still under construction so there’s nowhere to sit!).

Have you ever seen such a gorgeous receipt? It was immediately emailed to me after I signed using my finger on the iPod touch’s screen. Innovation at its finest. The merchant’s logo, email address, Twitter account, and location are included. Note: $7.00 for two lattes…

Before today I had several questions about the service. Fortunately I received some answers:

Is Square getting around traditional credit card security?
Square is actually working closely with banks and is in full compliance with all credit card security regulations.

Is the iPhone/iPod touch the only device that can be used with Square?
The dongle is designed to work with any device that has an audio input jack. That means a lack of software is the problem for now. Dorsey mentioned Android, Blackberry, and even the Mac as devices that will accept payments in the future.

How difficult is it to sign up for Square?
Go to the website. 10 second process. We’re just waiting for the dongle to become available to those who aren’t lucky enough to be in the beta program.

Below is a picture of Square in action at Sightglass.

Note: The iPod touch’s audio input jack is on the bottom of the device, so the Square dongle is covered by the employee’s fingers.

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