Apple is Coming for Square

Even if you aren't familiar with the company Square, you've seen it and have used it. Square is a payment system for small and medium businesses. They use iPad-like devices that swivel on a countertop and those small square devices that merchants use to take payments. Ever been to a craft fair, street fair, or other events with vendors? They're everywhere. Apple, not one to ever overlook an opportunity, announced they'll offer to accept tap-to-pay payments without any additional hardware.

The new capability will empower millions of merchants across the US, from small businesses to large retailers, to use their iPhone to seamlessly and securely accept Apple Pay, contactless credit and debit cards, and other digital wallets through a simple tap to their iPhone — no additional hardware or payment terminal needed. Tap to Pay on iPhone will be available for payment platforms and app developers to integrate into their iOS apps and offer as a payment option to their business customers.

At checkout, the merchant will simply prompt the customer to hold their iPhone or Apple Watch to pay with Apple Pay, their contactless credit or debit card, or other digital wallet near the merchant’s iPhone, and the payment will be securely completed using NFC technology. No additional hardware is needed to accept contactless payments through Tap to Pay on iPhone.

Apple Newsroom

The technology Apple is enabling will be on an iPhone XS device or newer, which makes me wonder why this could not be on earlier iPhone models that have Apple Pay built-in. Apple is using Stripe as the payment processor, which has basically become the de-facto standard for payments these days.

While I think it's fantastic to see a competing platform roll out, I do think how much of an uphill battle it will be to convert existing Square customers over to this payment system. Will Apple charge a smaller fee? Will they introduce terms that beat Square? Or will Apple simply roll this out and play a multi-years-long game to scoop up whatever market share they can? Only time will tell.

However, consider this: Apple Pay rolled out in 2014. It took many years for merchants to support it. Some still don't (I'm looking at you Home Depot) and may never will. But asking a cashier "Do you take Apple Pay?" has gone from "What's that?" to "I wish we did; so many people ask." If any company is willing to roll out a technology/feature and wait years for it to take hold, it's Apple. They certainly have the money to do so.

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