Google, Square, Intuit—who will win the mobile payments race? Answer: The one who makes people do as little as humanly possible. Google made a big leap in the space with the unveiling of Google Wallet, which relies on near field communications to let users pay for an item by simply tapping their phone to a receiver, but for now, it’s only available on Android. Today, iOS devices may have just gotten their own super-simple payment option: the Square Card Case app.
The free app allows users to pay a participating merchant with their phone in a process that Square refers to as paying “with your name.” The user simply walks into a café or store that accepts Square payments, taps on the merchant’s “card” in the Card Case app (which is designed to look like a virtual wallet, so each merchant comes with its own special “card”), and adds the charge to his/her tab. Because Square has your payment details on file, it’s essentially like an instant online payment. The charge shows up on the merchant’s end, and the merchant can process the payment, which sends a message to the customer to confirm the payment.
Any merchant can create its own Card, which allows repeat customers to pay quickly and easily, and when a customer makes a payment, the customer’s name and a profile picture shows up on the merchant’s end so everything can be tracked. For now, the service is only available in a handful of major cities throughout the U.S. (Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and St. Louis), but doubtless it will spread like wildfire to neighboring cities and states in the coming months.
In addition to the new Card Case app, Square has also launched several other new features, including the ability to pay without a signature for items under $25, thus speeding up the payment process. And for merchants who want to keep track of inventory that they give out for free (items in a buy-two-get-one-free promotion, for example), Square now has a feature that allows merchants to ring up charges for $0.00 to keep track of inventory.
You can download the new Card Case App from iTunes.