November 4th, 2011

Square updates iPhone app with auto­matic, location-​based payment

Square Card Case iPhone appSquare, the mobile pay­ments start-​up, has updated its Card Case mobile app to make pay­ments with smart­phones even easier by allow­ing US users to pay without tak­ing their phone or credit card out of their pocket.

Ini­tially the updated app is avail­able on iPhones run­ning iOS5. Square plans to bring the same fea­tures to the Android app.

The updated ver­sion of Square’s Card Case includes “auto­matic tabs”, which uses the new “geofen­cing” tech­no­logy in iPhone’s run­ning iOS5, rather than a NFC (Near Field Com­mu­nic­a­tion) chip, to detect when users have arrived at or near a retail venue, such as a cof­fee shop. Geofen­cing cre­ates vir­tual bound­ar­ies around spe­cific geo­graphic points. An iPhone run­ning Apple’s latest oper­at­ing sys­tem, iOS5, can detect when one of theses “fences” is crossed and will then trig­ger some form of “event” or “notification”.

If the mer­chant is one of the 20,000 signed up so far to Card Case, the buyer can simply provide their name to pay for the cof­fee. The updated Card Case applic­a­tion also includes Twit­ter integ­ra­tion, through which busi­ness own­ers can see reviews and com­ments from customers.

The earlier ver­sion of Card Case required users to open the app and manu­ally start a “tab” when vis­it­ing a merchant.

Square was co-​founded by Jim McK­elvey and Twit­ter founder Jack Dorsey. In June, the Wall Street Journal repor­ted that the com­pany had attrac­ted $100 mil­lion in fund­ing from a group led by Kleiner Per­kins Caufield & Byers, valu­ing the com­pany at $1 billion.

In May the com­pany intro­duced Square Register, a soft­ware sys­tem through which mer­chants can receive and ana­lyse pay­ment transactions.

Cur­rently, there are two ways that busi­nesses can use Square:

1. by accept­ing a credit card pay­ment through a free, square-​shaped dongle that plugs into an iPhone or iPad.

2. by a cus­tomer using the Card Case app, which the mer­chant then tracks using Square Register.

Square says that it has shipped 800,000 Square read­ers. But com­pet­i­tion in the mobile pay­ments mar­ket has increased markedly.

Google intro­duced Google Wal­let earlier this year, which can make use of NFC and allows con­sumers with some Android phones to pay for items by tap­ping the phone against a spe­cial ter­minal. EBay’s PayPal unit has pre­dicted it will pro­cess $3 bil­lion in mobile pay­ments this year through PayPal Mobile. Intuit and Veri­Fone sys­tems and fin­an­cial ser­vices com­pan­ies like Visa have also unveiled their own forms of mobile pay­ments software.

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