Late last year Square released its updated Square Reader for accepting contactless and chip payment methods on iPhones and iPads, which means small businesses and pop up shops can take Apple Pay payments from iPhones and Apple Watches without expensive terminal systems. The new Square Reader goes for $49 with transaction fees set at 2.75% so you keep $97.25 out of every $100 sent through Square. Square’s app lets you create mobilized businesses on iPhones and iPads, and we’ve tested the new Apple Pay-ready reader to see just how easy it all is.
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The updated kit includes two pieces of hardware. Square Contactless is a rechargeable Bluetooth reader that takes contactless payments and cards with secure chips. The other is the classic Square Reader that connects to headphone jacks and lets you swipe traditional debit and credit cards. If the iPhone 7 starts the death of the headphone jack, Square Contactless will be all the more important for small shops.
Inside the box you’ll also find a short microUSB cable for recharging the Square Contactless. Mine came fully charged according to the four green LED lights found on the new hardware. A battery indicator button next to the microUSB port along the back lets you check battery life anytime.
You’ll also find a Square payments decal to present to your customers. This lists the six different payment methods Square allows businesses to accept: Apple Pay, Google Pay, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. I’ve seen at least one small coffee shop around where I live present this decal. I think the Apple Pay logo will be pretty good marketing, and it’s great to see Google Pay right there too.
Setting up the new Square Contactless reader takes just a few minutes. Sign up for or sign in with your Square account, the hit the settings section of the app to look for new hardware for pairing. Square Contactless connects wirelessly via Bluetooth so ensure that’s on first then let the app locate the hardware. iOS will ask for permission to pair with the hardware, then you’re ready to go. The longest step in the process was updating the firmware on the hardware from the app, but the whole setup was ready to go in under 10 minutes.
Once you’re ready to charge a customer for any transaction and you’ve entered the total amount in the Square Register app, the Square Contactless fires up its NFC radios and looks for nearby contactless payment devices like iPhones and Apple Watches. A single green LED lights up to let you know the hardware is ready to go, and it stays ready for about a minute until it lights up four red LED lights to let you know nothing was detected. Back in the Square app, you can optionally tap a dialog button that appears to turn on the Apple Pay reader for another 60 seconds or so.
Similarly, you can insert a chip-enabled debit or credit card in the Square Contactless reader as well. I’ve used chip terminals at places like Target that don’t accept Apple Pay yet and the experience is always very archaic. Insert the chip end of the card, hear a loud tone, wait what feels like forever, enter your pin, hear another loud tone, then pull your card out but not too soon! The Square Contactless reader handled my chip-enabled debit card much more gracefully. No tones or long waits and the Square app nearly instantly presented a signature screen. You can even sign with the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro, although it’s not yet optimized and noticeably doesn’t feature palm rejection.
Check out our hands-on video below:
As someone who knows nothing about setting up payment terminals and even less about what’s required to accept chip and contactless payment methods, I found Square Contactless to be super easy to use after just a few minutes of setting up. Apple Pay is a joy to use whether it’s from the iPhone or Apple Watch, and Square’s $49 solution makes it possible for small businesses and pop up vendors to easily impress customers and take the latest payment methods.
During the early days of Apple Pay, I might even see a business or vendor using Square Contactless and decide to buy something just for the chance to pay with my iPhone or Apple Watch. You can still find Square’s classic Reader as well, which is included in the new kit. The updated kit is shipping to new reservers in March at the time of writing.