The pay-by-phone process has been advancing and expanding, and thanks to Square, it just took a big leap forward. Through its new Pay With Square program, the company makes it possible to check out using nothing but your name.
For the payment system to work, retailers are required to use an iPad as a register, equipped with the program’s app. The app uses GPS and other location services to recognize when people using Pay With Square are in the store. When shoppers go to pay, they need only tell the cashier their name, matched to an in-app profile with a photograph.
The cashier taps “okay” and the transaction is complete. Seems unbelievably simple, right? In key ways, it is, and Pay With Square could signal the beginning of the end of swiping credit/debit cards. That said, at present, there are a few hitches. First, for the app to work, retailers have to input each item they sell. Obviously, for big box behemoths and other stores with extensive inventory, that subverts the program’s main goal of efficiency. Second, good-bye privacy — besides making it faster to check out customers, the payment system makes it incredibly easy to keep track of everything about them.
And yet Pay With Square is already in 75,000 stores. PayPal’s copycat program, PayPal Local, is in 50,000 shops. And because that one is compatible with multiple types of electronic registers (it doesn’t require an iPad), we expect it’ll grow by leaps and bounds. As for privacy, there are myriad other ways for retailers to glean all your buying habits — it seems possible that consumers would be willing to trade off privacy in this particular area for a little more efficiency at check-out instead.