Review: Griffin Merchant Case + Square Reader for iPhone 5/5s
Griffin has begun shipping its Merchant Case + Square Reader for iPhone 5/5s ($20), the first product in the new Works with Square program. The silicone rubber case is specifically designed to be used with the excellent 2013 edition of the Square Credit Card Reader, one of which is included in the package. Merchant Case provides both a holder for the Reader when it's not in use, and a way to keep it lined up when it is, all while protecting the iPhone.
Much like Griffin’s earlier Protector Case, Merchant Case is all silicone. It easily fits onto the iPhone, protecting the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons without having any impact on their tactility. The case is taller, wider, and thicker than Protector, or most other cases, although that’s largely attributable to what it’s made to do. On the back, you’ll find a cutout the exact size and shape of the Square Reader, with divots on either side that make it easy to remove. The Reader can be left in there whenever it’s not in use, and it’s not going to fall out. Also on the back is a camera opening that’s unusually huge — it’s also the same size and shape as the reader.
The reason the case is taller than most is that the bottom has been molded to stabilize the Reader, which plugs into the headphone port. When it’s connected, the Reader doesn’t spin at all; it stays with the front facing forward. A ridge along the bottom edge perfectly lines up a credit card so that it can effortlessly slide through, all the way across. The Lightning port is left exposed so that the phone can stay charged during use, but since it’s deeply recessed, some thicker plugs will present issues. As for the speaker, the audio is ported out through the front so that it’s not muffled by the thick rubber.
Merchant Case is a very good case, especially for its $20 price, but even as Square fans, it’s not particularly exciting. If you’re considering accepting payments, it offers a reasonable solution for keeping track of a Square Credit Card Reader, and an iPod touch version of the case would be useful, too. While it’s not the smallest case around, and requires some small usability compromises when you’re not using the Reader, it works well enough to earn a strong general recommendation. It adds functionality, but also some bulk, and isn’t so much necessary to use the Square system as a small convenience for bulk swiping.