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Are All Mobile POS Solutions the Same?

December 20, 2017

You’ve heard the terms “mPOS” and “mobile point of sale” more times than you can count in the past few years. But are all types of mobile POS solutions the same?

The evolution of mPOS solutions

The first mPOS solutions were minimalist, often including just a so-called “dongle” that plugged into the audio jack of a consumer-grade smartphone and allowed the merchant to swipe magnetic-stripe cards. As mPOS systems evolved, more mobile devices—like commercial-grade tablets and smartphones—came into the marketplace.

Compared to the bulky cash registers and traditional POS devices that many mobile systems replace, today’s tablets and smartphones are lightweight, attractive, and sleek. Along with card acceptance and payment processing, they’ve turned into complete business management solutions.

But as mPOS adoption rises, the security of these systems becomes more crucial to merchants and vendors alike. That’s why you may be hearing more about so-called semi-integrated POS solutions.

Integrated POS vs. semi-integrated POS solutions

As with traditional POS systems, today’s mPOS solutions are considered either fully integrated or semi-integrated. Here’s a quick look at the differences between the two.

A fully integrated POS system means that the merchant owns and maintains the complete payment infrastructure—including terminals, servers, routers, and firewalls. The system stores encrypted cardholder data and records of transactions transmitted across an Internet connection.

Tier One retailers like fully integrated solutions, because they offer greater customization, including more control over terminal selection and the configuration of terminal transaction flows.

Semi-integrated POS works to avoid many of the security challenges of a fully integrated system. Instead, the solution routes sensitive payment data directly from the terminal to the gateway or payment processor, avoiding the POS software and other back-office systems. Communications between payment terminals and the mPOS solution don’t include sensitive data, so business owners have little exposure if the system is breached.

Many small to medium-sized businesses are turning to semi-integrated POS to limit PCI compliance scope and reduce liability concerns.

Today’s mPOS solutions

As you and your client work to identify the best mobile solution, you’ll find a range of options. Be sure to select EMV-ready card readers that accept both a chip card and the magnetic stripe.

Completely mobile businesses may want to stay with the most portable card reader—think Square and PayPal Here. A merchant with a little more style can turn to a slim tablet with a stand that looks good on the counter but isn’t tied down. Rugged, commercial-grade tablets and smartphones will handle drops and rougher treatment without flinching.

POS software options also differ, depending on the business type—think retail versus restaurant—and added features like inventory control, employee management tools, and loyalty program integration.

The wide array of mPOS hardware and software means there’s a solution that will meet the needs of every merchant.

What do you see as the key similarities or differences among mPOS solutions?