Should I be using Square or Passbook for my Business?

Posted on November 15, 2012

Many people are asking themselves today whether they should be using Square or Passbook for their business. Before we get to an answer, let’s review what exactly these two services are.

What is Square?

Square in its most basic form is a cash register that allows you to take credit cards with your mobile device. In its very first incarnation, it was a small card reader which plugged into your phone’s headphone socket and with which you would swipe a credit card. The Square app on the phone allows you to enter the amount to be charged, tax rates and to keep a register of charges made. Funds, minus a transaction fee are then deposited in your bank account. Simple.

Since its first inception, Square has grown to be a more fully featured Point of Sale system that can fully replace your cash register in its iPad version. In the United States, Square also offers consumers the Square wallet, where you can pay Square retailers directly from your smartphone.

What is Passbook?

Passbook is an Apple technology that enables companies to place coupons, storecards, tickets and travel documents into a special, location aware, folder on a users telephone as aPass. When the user arrives at the place where they need to use the Pass, the have easy access to it either through the folder, or by receiving a notification on their phone’s lock-screen.

Passbook versus Square – What’s the Difference?

Hence, for the most part, Passbook and Square are two complementary services. Square serves the process of creating and managing purchase transactions, which Passbook assists the process of promoting services and helping them be delivered.

Take the example of a user that wants to purchase theatre tickets. The user can be sent an e-coupon as a Pass to use at a kiosk, make the purchase with Square, and then receive electronic tickets in the form of Passes to show when they arrive at the the theatre.

Square does, however, allow you to set up a rewards scheme for users in the US using Square wallet. It is heavily modelled on the punch card loyalty card scheme used in coffee shops.

Can Square and Passbook Communicate?

In a word, no. In an ideal world, you would be able to create a coupon as a Pass and have your Square register read that coupon and then invalidate it. However, to do this, Square would need to provide an API, which they don’t.

How can Square and Passbook be used Together?

This bridge can be patched manually by having a separate application on the iPad Square register which takes a photo of the coupon, calculates the discount and invalidates the coupon. This can also be used when coupons are not used to kick-start the next stage in the product delivery process.

So, think of Square as your cash register, and Passbook with a supporting bespoke application, as your business management application and you can see how these two systems can be used together.