Square updated its iPhone app last night to make it easier for users to find businesses that accept payments with Square.The move is will put the pressure on PayPal, which introduced its own competing credit card reader and app a couple weeks ago.
We were particularly impressed with the PayPal Here app, which lets you walk into any participating business and pay without ever touching money or a credit card — or even taking your wallet out.
But it was just a demo. PayPal Here is not widely available yet.
Meanwhile, Square had more or less the same functionality in its Card Case app about six months ago. You can use the app to find any nearby store that takes Square and open a tab on your credit card. When you walk in you can simply say “pay with Square” they’ll charge it automatically.
Now, Square has updated the app (now called Pay with Square) so it’s easier to find participating stores. There’s a new search function and a new interface centered around nearby retailers.
There’s also a new viral element: users can send info about Square retailers to their friends using Twitter, SMS, or email. So for instance, you can text a friend to meet you at a local ice cream place from within the app, set up payment ahead of time, and when you walk in everything’s taken care of.
Square also added “geo-fencing” for Android, so the merchant can recognise when you walk into a store and prepare to accept your payment automatically. (This feature was already available on the iPhone version of the app.)
Square could face a tough fight against PayPal, which has a huge built-in userbase and the muscle of eBay behind it.
But whoever wins in the end, the experience itself is what matters. It’s new and so obviously better than the current way of doing things, that someday it will be standard. Our kids will marvel that we used to need to carry our wallets and credit cards with us everywhere.
Here’s a screenshot of the app, with a map showing a nearby store that takes Square:
And here’s the directory listing. “Open Tab” is how you set up payment. The icons below that are to mark a favourite, and to send a SMS, email, or tweet with the listing.
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