While Apple’s former hardware chief was busy flattening the company’s iconic software, Apple’s former accessory hardware division leader Jesse Dorogusker was flattening something else entirely. The Square card reader has been an iconic staple for many small businesses for quite some time now. Compared to other card readers on the market, the Square is already pretty small, but Dorogusker set out to shrink it anyway.
The first order of business was to shrink and improve the reader head responsible for scanning the magnetic strip on the back of the card and transferring the data to the smartphone app. The chip that handles all of the data between the reader head and the smartphone also needed to be tweaked. Rather than have an outside party build a chip that suited Square’s needs, Dorogusker decided to build an in-house custom solution.
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In much the same way that Apple is able to improve efficiency and speed by building its own processors, Square reaped several benefits from this decision. The improved power efficiency allowed Square to forget about the battery and only pull power from the phone’s audio port. That allowed them to cut out a significant amount of space inside the reader and shrink the casing even more.
The new Square reader is an impressive bit of engineering infused with a bit of Apple’s signature hardware-shrinking magic. Wired has put together a great inside look at even more of the technology that went into the new, smaller Square reader. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re interested.