Review: Square, Inc. Square Credit Card Reader (2013)
Square has continued to iterate on its iOS-friendly credit card system, which has evolved on both the hardware and software side since we last covered it in 2011. Closing out 2013, Square introduced its newest Square Credit Card Reader (Free*). Slimmer than previous versions, it has a slightly larger footprint, but still maintains the same plastic, rounded square design and headphone plug connector. The Square team — which now includes Jesse Dorogusker, the former lead developer on Apple's Lightning connector — has significantly redesigned the internals by using custom parts rather than off-the-shelf components; it's claimed to be more reliable when swiping cards, and is 45% slimmer. This reader is available for free from Square's app and web site, or it can be purchased for $10, with a $10 credit to your bank account included. Because the core concept of the system is the same as it was three years ago, this review is focused heavily on the changes since then.
First, the hardware. Square’s new Credit Card Reader is familiar, but refined. Although it’s larger than before, a 1” by 1” rounded square isn’t big by any means. The glossy white plastic box, flat on the back with a depressed square pattern on the front, is about as thick as an iPhone 5/5s, with a headphone plug extending out from the bottom, and a 3/4”-deep ridge running its entire length. The reader easily plugs into the bottom of any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and will work with many cases. Missing on this edition is the small opening that allowed a narrow lanyard to be strung through.
There a number of technical improvements inside the new Square Reader that most people will never notice. For example, the internal battery has been removed; the reader now relies on the device it’s plugged into for power. What is evident is the much better magnetic readhead inside. Credit cards now swipe incredibly smoothly, and in our testing, didn’t once fail to register. There’s much less resistance than before; we can’t imagine it feeling much better.
When ordered directly, Square Credit Card Reader ships in a 5.5” by 3.75” foam mailer, with paper covers on the front and the back. The only accessory included is a sticker, which displays the Square name along with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover logos. It’s minimalistic packaging of a minimalist device.
At the time of our last review, the only fees Square took were 2.75% for swiped cards, 3.5% for manually entered cards, plus a flat rate of 15 cents per transaction. Since then, it’s played around with those costs. The 15 cent rate has been removed from swiped transactions. For a period of time, it offered a $275 per month flat rate, but as of February 1, 2014, that program will be discontinued. There are still no fees for signing up, no minimums, and no other costs. Your money gets directly deposited to your account the next business day, if the payment is taken before 5:00PM, or the second business day, if after 5:00PM.
Although Square now has a whole ecosystem — including an online sales portal, the ability to pay digitally with Square Wallet, and Square Cash for sending money directly to others — Square Register is the one that goes along with the reader. The app has been significantly redesigned, and now matches the aesthetic of iOS 7. With scaled versions for both iPhone and iPad, it allows manual entry of figures, and the ability to add from a library of items. Once the final total is in, swipe the card through the reader, get a signature if necessary, and then send a receipt via email or text. The iPad version of the app offers reports as well — detailed versions of which can be found on Square’s website.
With improved hardware and software, plus somewhat lower rates, we can’t ask for much more from Square. From the excellent free reader, to the comprehensive software, to even more advanced features, including the ability to deploy units to employees, it’s really a home run of a product. Square makes it easy for anyone to process credit cards, from an individual holding a garage sale to a large business. There’s no fault to be found here; this Square Credit Card Reader and its surrounding ecosystem earn an A rating.