Square's Advantage

A while ago, having just completed a module at university where we looked at the technology behind card payment systems, I wrote about the problems that Square and PayPal Here faced in moving abroad. I concluded that iZettle, a startup from Sweden, was well poised to take the European market, but maybe that's not an issue for Square?

In my previous article I passed over Square Wallet -- previously 'Pay with Square' -- without much of a mention, but this summer I met up with former Square employee Louis Mantia and he pointed out that it isn't just a neat feature of Square, it's the whole point.

While Square happens to have a useful way of accepting card payments, this isn't important, and the technology that they use certainly isn't as important as I thought it was. Square would prefer it if you never had to take your card out, they want to make the whole process seamless, and that's not tied to a country or a technology.

PayPal and iZettle saw Square's first move and jumped to copy it, but possibly without realising that it was only a stepping stone on the route to eliminating card payments all together. With Square now in Starbucks, and with the trial in New York taxis this year, it's obvious they are after bigger businesses, and if they manage it could change everything about how we perceive payments.

As Square redefines the payment process, PayPal Here and iZettle remain very much just a way to take card payments on a mobile device. I'm going to tentatively predict that Square will expand to the UK in 2013, and I think we might see even more emphasis on the Wallet when we do with less emphasis on individuals taking payments.