Firm turns iPad into a point-of-sale system

A cloud-based point-of-sale provider has announced its plans to take on the likes of Square and Verifone with an iPad accessory to take payments from either mag-stripe or NFC-equipped cards.

Designed to turn an iPad into a point-of-sale system, Erply's creation connects to the 30-pin charging port to give the iPad NFC and magnetic reader capabilities. As a result, the device can take payment from pretty much any type of payment card, with no extra equipment required.

It's a plan which has been proving successful for Square: one of the first companies to come out with an iOS-targeted payment processing accessory, its free Square Reader connects to the headphone hack on an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet and transfers information from the magnetic stripe on the rear of the card to the company's payment servers for a 2.75 per cent fee.

Erply's device is at once more flexible and more constrained than Square's: as well as support for mag-stripe cards, it adds near-field communications - NFC - technology for contactless payments, but its use of the 30-pin charging port means there's no support for non-Apple devices. The company is hoping to make up for that with reduced fees: while the device itself attracts a charge of $50, transaction fees are a mere 1.9 per cent compared to Square's 2.75 per cent.

"With our mobile credit card reader, we are providing retailers with the full range of technology options they will need to accept and process payments and make real­‐time decisions that affect their business," claimed Erply's chief executive Kris Hiiemaa at the launch of the device. "As technology changes, we are giving consumers the ability to pay for items the way they want to, whether it is with cash, credit cards or with NFC technologies in phones."

That latter feature could prove to be the key to Erply's success: while NFC-powered smartphones are still thin on the ground, the market is expected to grow rapidly. Google has already placed NFC technology into its Nexus S device, and is expected to be launching a mobile wallet service backed by its own payment platform soon. By giving retailers a quick way to add NFC payment options to their existing setup, Erply is well positioned to benefit from the expected growth.

Currently, the Erply gadget only works with the iPad and iPad 2 tablets, but the company has confirmed that an iPhone option will be coming out within the next three months. Sadly, it has so far yet to disclose whether it will be launching the device outside the confines of the US - something its competitor Square has singularly failed to do.