What is an mPOS and how does it work?

Cameron Summerson
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What is an mPOS and how does it work?

mPOS stands for mobile point of sale (or mobile POS). While mPOS systems have a longer history, a modern mPOS uses a smartphone or tablet and some form of card reader to complete a transaction. Some mPOS systems are also connected to a traditional POS or cash register (or cash drawer). The smartphone or tablet powers the system and is portable so merchants can accept payments from virtually anywhere.

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How does mPOS work and how is it different than POS?

A traditional POS (point of sale) system usually consists of a bulky primary system (computer, terminal, device — all can describe a POS system) connected with cables and plugged into a wall outlet for power since it doesn’t have a battery. In other words: they’re not designed to be moved. You put them in place, and that’s generally where they stay.

An mPOS, on the other hand, is designed to be mobile. Many mPOS systems are self-contained, meaning that they contain nearly everything you need for a transaction in a single unit — a barcode scanner, processing terminal, card reader, and more. The primary exception here is often a receipt printer, which will typically be connected wirelessly. The compact size allows merchants to accept payments anywhere in their business (and even outside of it, provided you have internet connectivity),  or not be tied to a single fixed location at all (like a food truck).

What are the advantages of mPOS over traditional POS?

The advantages of mPOS over a traditional POS are significant. Here’s a quick list to get you started:

  • It’s smaller: Who wants a big, bulky POS system on the countertop? Not you.
  • Portability Going to trade show where you plan on selling goods? Take your mPOS. Want to set up shop on the sidewalk because it’s a nice day? Your mPOS has your back. Decide to close up your restaurant and buy a food truck instead? You won’t need to change your POS system.
  • It’s easy to use: You can use your smartphone, right? Then you can use an mPOS. In many cases, it’s just an app that runs on the device (though dedicated mPOS devices also exist!), so it’s intuitive. Plus, you won’t have to manage it yourself since the mPOS service provider will almost certainly have robust support options.
  • It’s secure: mPOS is more secure than a traditional POS system because it’s completely cloud-based. That means none of the data — credit card or customer information, for example — is stored locally. For a deeper look at mPOS security, check out this piece from Merchant Maverick.
  • It’s automated: No need to manually generate revenue reports, manage bank accounts, or the like. It’s all seamless and simple with an mPOS system.
  • Customers love it (and so will you): At this point, customers are very used to mPOS systems and many likely prefer it overall. With many mPOS systems, the customer’s email address and phone number are attached to their credit card, which makes digital receipts, returns, and customer history dead simple.

What are the disadvantages of mPOS?

While there’s a lot to love about mPOS systems, there are also downsides to consider.

  • Portable = breakable: Have you ever dropped an old school POS and broken it? Probably not, because it’s largely stationary. An mPOS though? Drops happen. Better get a ruggedized case.
  • High cost to replace: What happens when you break that high-dollar mPOS tablet? You have to replace it. That can be costly depending on which model you’re using. While traditional POS systems are likely more expensive, they’re also far less likely to get damaged, making replacement cost more of a consideration for an mPOS system.
  • Support lifetime: There are plenty of old school POS systems still in use today, but mPOS systems won’t have the same lifecycle. They’re not designed to stay in service indefinitely and have limited support lifetimes, so they’ll have to replace regularly for cybersecurity purposes.

Is it a perfect system? Nah. But it’s still a good one — especially if you never break it.

What are some examples of common types of mPOS systems?

There are a few different types of mPOS devices out there. An mPOS can be as simple as a tablet or smartphone with an app and a card reader. There are also purpose-built systems from companies like Square, Toast, and Clover. All in one solutions may seem like the way to go — everything is managed on the provider’s end, after all — but if you have multiple devices to manage or want a more versatile solution, going custom might be a better choice.

Need a custom mPOS solution? We got you.

Whether you’re shopping around for a POS monitoring and management solution or you already have a fleet and need a better management solution, get in touch with us. We’d love to chat about how Esper can help solve your issues.

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Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson

Cam brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently runs content operations and oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.