Tech Savvy: Cashing in
By Jessi Pierce
First there was cash, then checks and then came the plastic.
Now it seems, with everything and everyone becoming digital first and technology-oriented, smartphones and apps may soon be replacing the way people in society pay for items.
The connection between bank accounts and smartphones and the digital era is nothing new. Many people, myself included, use online banking and respective bank apps to better manage money on the go, checking account balances and funds and even — for a fee — depositing checks directly from their phone. According to an August Pioneer Press article — titled “The smartphone will soon take the place of wallet, experts say”:
“Nearly two-thirds of the technology experts surveyed on behalf of the Pew Internet and American Life Project said that by 2020, most people will embrace so-called ‘mobile wallet’ systems that banks and technology companies are starting to develop.
“Research firm comScore says that 38 percent of smartphone owners have used their phones to make a purchase...”
What’s happening now, it seems, is just one step further toward a Jetson future.
Beginning this past year, some major retailers have announced they will accept payments via our favorite digital devices. Don’t have the cash for your Starbucks coffee and don’t want to whip out your credit card for a measly $2.69? Starbucks is just one of the major retailers that has its own app that can be used at the Seattle-based company’s cafes around the world, earning customers rewards when using it. The popular coffee-bean joint also allows the Square app at select store (see below for more on that option) and as recently as Oct. 4, it was reported they are also in the process of making an app for leaving baristas a tip.
Google Wallet, introduced last fall, seems to be the most widely accepted at places that do allow app pay. The downfall is it is specific to Android phones and doesn’t work with all wireless carriers.
Another option is Square, something my partner in crime, Phil, takes a closer look at below.
Still, the most difficult is deciphering which stores take which options of payment and like I mentioned mobile payments are still not widespread, especially to manage which places use which app of payment.
I’ll stick to my cash and card. Check please!
By PHIL SEIBEL
We accept cash, check or major credit card — A familiar statement for many of us when we go shopping. But is it something you’d expect to hear from a Girl Scout or at a garage sale? Within the last couple of years, new consumer apps and equipment have now made it possible for independently owned businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs to accept credit cards.
If you haven’t heard the buzz around these neat little devices, you are definitely missing out. If you go to www.squareup.com you can learn about one of the frontrunners in the field. Square is a company that was founded by Jack Dorsey — the guy that helped build Twitter — and they have been leading the pack so far in consumer level credit card payments.
The idea behind Square and other similar products is that they can use a small adapter for their smartphone or tablet to swipe credit cards and accept payments for just about anything. The adapter is partnered with an app that allows the seller to add items, create a virtual product shelf for iPad and process the entire transaction within minutes.
A hoax? Nope! For those afraid that there is some identity theft game afoot, you can put your minds at ease. Square uses a multistep process to confirm the sellers credibility and bank information to protect both the buyer and the seller from potential fraud. Even during the transaction, the buyer will experience a familiar setting. They swipe their card, then they are handed the tablet or phone and they use their finger or stylus to actually sign their name and then a receipt is generated that is emailed to them. The receipts have a summary of the purchase including the amount paid, the items purchased and even a map that shows where the transaction took place.
Of course, nothing in this world is free and depending on which service you decide to use you will see different models in place. Some companies, like Square, charge a flat percentage per transaction, others charge a percentage and a fee per transaction. When you compare the fees, you will notice that the percentages can run higher than some that the traditional card systems charge. However, you should take volume into account. For people like me, or small business owners, there is no way we would have the volume of credit card transactions to qualify for the lowest tier of fees from many traditional companies — that’s what makes apps like Square so appealing. For a fractional cost, we can now accept payments in virtually any form. Square also has a nice feature where the buyer can still opt to use cash or check and a transaction can still be rung up and a receipt generated and sent.
The potential here is only limited by your imagination. Girl Scouts have used them to take cookie orders, coffee shops and mobile food trucks use them regularly and businesses with mobile sales forces could implement them to process contracts in the field. Independent businesses now don’t have to worry about losing business because they can’t process credit cards, and businesses can take their show on the road without having to worry about getting everything set up.
One neat feature of the Square Register app is that you can create items and list them within the app, so if you have a set list of products or services you can set it up ahead of time so you don’t need to manually enter each product each time its sold. You can also edit the items to have an icon or picture, and you can set options like if they item is taxable or not. What this means is that these apps are universal enough that just about anyone can put them into use.
As for me, I can’t wait until our next garage sale so I can ask people if they’d like to use a credit card to pay for all those twenty-five cent knick knacks.
PHIL SEIBEL, Digital Manager, may be reached at 855-5862 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pseibel(@pseibel).
Q: I have an iPhone and an iPad both still on iOS5, and after iOS6 was released I have seen a lot of criticisms of some of the features — maps, in particular, and I’m concerned. Should I update my OS, or should I hold out until they get everything fixed?
A: Anytime an OS is updated, or changed, there is a period where things seem in flux — apps don’t work as well, things are different, sometimes it almost seems like the “newest” is worse than what we had. This is caused by a combination of the apps themselves needing to be updated to be fully compatible with the new OS settings and the new OS getting all the bugs worked out. Usually this period is fairly short lived and things get back to normal relatively quickly. In the case of iOS6, and their discombobulated maps, we may see a bit more criticism and impatience than with other releases. I updated my iPad the day iOS6 was available, and I have not noticed any substantial problems. The maps are unfortunate but the main complaints seem to be centered around the public transportation features so if you don’t rely on public transportation you may not notice any real differences. I also have an Android phone and that is my primary navigation device anyway, so there is less concern. All in all, to me, it seems like the complaints about iOS6 seem to be about the same caliber of the selling points of the iPhone 5 and iOS6 updates — fairly trivial. Long story short, you’ll want to upgrade to iOS6 at some point, and considering Google spent years (and ongoing) on their maps, I wouldn’t let Apple Maps be the thing that prevented you from upgrading- there are some nice new features in there.
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