Square, a mobile payment company founded by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, is out with a new credit card reader. The device, designed for use with a smartphone, is slimmer and has more capabilities than earlier models.
The new unit is 45 percent thinner than its predecessor, and the company said it was the thinnest such reader on the market. Jesse Dorogusker, who heads up hardware development at Square, said in a statement that the new unit provides "purpose-built components to create both excellent performance and beautiful design, without compromise."
The new reader offers a custom magnetic read head and spring, which Square said is more accurate than competing readers, and the custom electronics are embedded in a single chip. No battery is needed, as the reader is powered by the smartphone that it plugs into.
30,000 U.S. Stores
Square offers the reader, which is available for Android or iOS 7 devices, for free to anyone signing up for a new account. It is being launched initially in 800 Canadian retail stores, and the 30,000 retail stores in the U.S. utilizing the Square reader are expected to upgrade. The unit is also available through the company's Web site. The company, which makes its money by the fees charged on transactions, reportedly will reach sales of nearly $1 billion by next year.
Last week, Square announced its purchase of a company called Viewfinder that makes a mobile photo-sharing application. The app enables users to share photos and chat within the app, as well as search for previously captured photos.
In October, the company rolled out a new online payments service called Square Cash.
The service is free and requires no sign-up. To use, a person writes an e-mail, sends a copy to Square's e-mail address, and specifies the dollar amount in the subject line. The message body can be left blank or can include a message.
Once the e-mail is sent, Square will reply to the sender, asking for permission to link their debit card to the payment, which they can do by simply replying with their debit card number once. Square verifies that the debit card account exists and sufficient cash is present, before sending an e-mail to the recipient. The company says it does not track the total funds in the account.
The recipient of the funds receives an e-mailed link from Square and is asked to reply with his or her debit card number to receive the funds, also just once. There is no intermediate stored balance account, and the transaction takes a day or two, although Square says sometimes the funds show up right away. The sender and recipient are both now authorized to send or receive funds, in either direction.
In May, the company changed its terms of service to ban the sale of firearms, ammunition or "weapons or other devices designed to cause physical injury" through its reader. A company spokesperson said the company revisits its policies on occasion to "ensure they are consistent with our values and in the best interest of our customers."