The Square credit card reader for iOS (s aapl) devices is now available online at the Apple Store, and will soon be available at brick-and-mortar Apple retail locations. The Square dongle is required to use Square’s mobile payment app, which allows individuals and small businesses to quickly and easily receive credit card payments on the go. Official Apple Store availability is a significant step in the ongoing rise of Square’s success.
Founded by Jack Dorsey (who also co-founded Twitter), Square began offering its hardware credit card reader, which plugs into the iPhone or iPad’s 3.5mm headphone jack, in May of 2010. It briefly stopped shipping the device between June and August of last year while it addressed a security vulnerability, and then continued shipping out free readers to any who signed up for the service and requested one. Square charges nothing for the hardware, or for the service, but it does take a 2.75 percent cut of each credit card transaction processed using its software.
Although the Square reader is available direct at no charge from Square, it will be selling for $9.95 in Apple Store. But Square is also including $10 credit in transactions with the version sold through Apple retail channels, so the price actually evens out. Square’s business model isn’t about selling hardware, after all, but about netting that 2.75 percent fee on every transactions for the life of the card reader. Securing Apple Store availability, even at a loss when it comes to hardware costs, will only ensure that it extends its reach well beyond its current audience and into the mainstream buying public.
Square isn’t the first mobile payment option to be made available direct from Apple. Intuit (s intu) and Mophie partnered to bring the GoPayment app and Marketplace reader accessory to Apple Stores in August. Intuit’s solution requires a monthly fee, which features a tiered payment plan that offers two options depending on the volume of your monthly business. Square’s decision to stay away from plans and instead use a simple, clear, no-nonsense fee structure has made it appealing to small business and independent contractors alike.
Mobile payments has become a heated battlefront lately, as more users begin to look for quick and easy ways to pay for things on the go. Square recently crossed the $1,000,000 in transactions processed per day threshold, a remarkable achievement for such a relative newcomer to the payment processing industry. The service also recently came under fire from competitor VeriFone(s pay), which released a public statement and demo software reportedly exposing a key security weakness with the Square processing method. Many argued that the weakness was not really anything specific to Square’s method, and in fact represented a general danger when dealing with any credit card payments.
The mobile payment industry is already competitive, but growing consumer comfort and familiarity with connected mobile devices and the looming potential of NFC are poised to make it even more so. That Square has managed to secure a coveted spot in Apple retail is a strong sign that it’s about to gain significant ground in the ongoing battle.