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Square's new device makes a big play for small businesses

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
Square’s new $399 device hopes to capture a tranche of new business, targeting the million-plus sellers across the U.S. that use traditional credit card terminals. (Square)Square’s new $399 device hopes to capture a tranche of new business, targeting the million-plus sellers across the U.S. that use traditional credit card terminals. (Square)

Square, Inc. (SQ) has released a new all-in-one payments device that the company hopes will disrupt a fossilized payment processing industry.

About the size of a brick with a phone-like screen and painted in the company’s signature white, the new Square Terminal targets businesses that still use old-fashioned credit-card processing technology that has been notoriously heavy on fees and light on software updates.

Currently, Square has a $999 register, a larger stand and reader that can be used with an iPad, and tiny phone-connected readers. The new Terminal stands as an offering between these options with both portability and full functionality — that doesn’t require a phone or an iPad.

Square’s head of product Jesse Dorogusker told Yahoo Finance that there’s a massive market waiting to be tapped, in particular, small businesses, like liquor stores, barber shops, dry cleaners, and more – that use old tech or no tech at all – for payment transactions.

These businesses, which Square puts in the millions since that’s the amount of current terminal devices in the U.S., may find appeal in having a payment system free from surprises that’s easy to understand: Square charges sellers 2.6% of each purchase plus 10 cents for every payment, and $399 for the device.

In addition to Square’s no-nonsense fees, the company hopes the new features present in the Apple-esque device — it actually runs on Android — will attract customers on their own merit in a double-pronged approach.

The Square Terminal doesn’t need a cabled ethernet connection like most payment terminals do, instead using Wi-Fi, though a cable could be used in a pinch. This means someone could pay for a haircut while still in the barber chair or pay for a doctor’s visit, away from the waiting room.

The device can also take every form of electronic payment — chips, swipes, contactless taps, Apple Pay, Google Pay — print paper receipts, and integrate with Square’s inventory software and other resources.

Given the number of potential customers, Square aims for disruption on a consumer-scale and is launching an strong marketing campaign on multiple platforms, even though this is technically a B2B product. That’s because ordinary people — sole proprietors and the moms and pops who own mom-and-pop stores — are the ones who stand to make the decision.

With this in mind, Dorogusker said that Square designed the devices’ software with two important features: to operate much the same as the older devices familiar to the millions who work registers across the country, and to make the setup take no more than a few minutes.

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, retail, personal finance, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.