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Business Wisdom February 27, 2014

Tablet POS Hardware Made Simple

POS, or point of sale, will always be a staple in a brick and mortar storefront. At some point the customer will always have to checkout and purchase the goods. With the modernized market, entire POS systems can now be run off tablet computers.

Whether it's a small coffee shop or large restaurant, a tablet is a great way to modernize and simplify the POS system. And not only does tablet POS help physical stores, they can be used on-the-go. Street vendors selling food and homemade goods need a mobile solution, and tablets make that possible. Mall kiosks need a smaller alternative to the classic cashier systems, and once again tablets make that possible. Wherever the market is, POS will be present. With so many options out there, finding the best hardware to get started can be tricky. Here are a few entry points to help get your tablet POS system up and running.

Get the Hardware

First off, you need to ask yourself if you already have a tablet to use for POS. If you don't have a tablet, and you are building the system from scratch, then the good bet is to head over to  BreadCrumb. BreadCrumb has created a terminal bundle aptly titled the BreadBox, which includes a second generation iPad with Wifi. Also included is the Windfall iPad stand from Heckler Design as well as the BreadCrumb card reader. All these pieces make up the most basic terminal package. For only $545, their entry point to POS covers all the basics. If you want more, they offer bigger bundles which can include receipt printers, cash drawers, and even wi-fi routers. So if you want an easy all in one solution, the BreadCrumb BreadBox is a great a place to start.

Now, let's say you already have a tablet or don't want to purchase the bundle. Then a good product to look into is the  Griffin Kiosk. Griffin is known for its quality cases and now they offer durable and well designed POS stands. The stands are available in floor and table top models, all of which feature heavy duty encasing designed for an iPad. Built into the case is a power supply with its own external cable as well as a locking system to help make sure the iPad stays where it is. The cases also comes in a couple of flavors. One option leaves the home button open and the other covers it up. So if the customer is going to be interacting with the tablet, you are able to ensure they stay within the open application and don't stray. If the employee is using the tablet, you can leave the home button uncovered in case they need to access other apps or files.

There is a drawback to the Griffin case though. There is no built-in card reader. The case, although attractive, is quite large around the device and doesn't allow for a connected card reader on the device itself. If a card reader is needed, it will have to be external using a cable or bluetooth which may be troublesome in certain applications. But if a built-in card reader is not fully necessary, the the Griffin Kiosk is a quality piece of hardware for tablet POS.

If Hardware Isn't Your Thing...

What if you just need a quick and mobile solution? This is where something like  Square comes in. Square solutions are popular for a reason, they are purely just simple card readers that can connect to almost any mobile device. This means you can throw it in your bag or pocket and pull it out when you need it. Of course you can combine with a simple iPad stand to run a checkout in your establishment, but where Square thrives is with its mobility. Square also offers an online marketplace where users can create pages to show off and sell their products. This makes Square a great solution for small businesses. You get access to an ever growing online market place to sell your goods, as well as the physical Square card reader to make sales virtually anywhere. As long as you have your phone or tablet, you can sell product.

Even with products like Square however, a key factor in Tablet POS working is the internet connection. Say you are one of those street vendors or someone who sells on the go, how do you deal with not having Wifi everywhere? Well as many know, just like smartphones tablets can be bought through a mobile service provider. One of the best deals out there right now is with T-Mobile. They are offering a plan where if a tablet is purchased through them, it will receive free data for life. Thats pretty extraordinary. The data limit is only 200 mb per month, but when you consider it is free for life, it is quite a deal.

The only problem when switching to T-Mobile is the coverage. Although the company is working hard to have better national coverage, it still is far behind the likes of Verizon. If signing away to 2 year contract with someone like Verizon makes you uncomfortable, sticking to a Wifi only system is still a fair option. In order to make sure the tablet POS system always runs despite fluctuating Wifi signals, the software you choose needs to offer an Offline Mode. A great software solution for this is  Revel Systems. They make iPad based POS software and one of their key features is their Always On Mode. Essentially an offline mode, Always On Mode allows for users to continue to take credit cards and run the system with virtually no change in the performance of the software.

The Whole Package

So let's bring this all together. The hardware you get for your POS system is going to depend on a few factors. First off if you don't have an iPad or tablet yet, look no further than BreadCrumb's BreadBox bundle. If you are looking for a durable stand the allows for more user interaction and you can live without a card reader, then the Griffin Kiosk is a great option. If you are just looking for a quick and mobile solution then Square is way to go. For those on the go, finding a system with offline mode is crucial. T-Mobile also has great deals for data, but the coverage can sometimes be spotty.

Tablet-run POS systems are growing in popularity and more products come out almost everyday. If you have a piece of hardware or software you would like to recommend, let us know about it in the comments below.

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