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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Dan Moren

A look inside Square’s EMV/Apple Pay reader

Fast Company’s Harry McCracken talked to Jesse Dorogusker, Square’s head hardware honcho about the company’s newest reader, which accepts chip cards and works with Apple Pay:

Square also took on the responsibility of engineering its own software. “There are dozens of places where you can buy EMV software stacks, but we don’t want to do any of that, because we wanted to have end-to-end control of the system,” Dorogusker says. By writing its own code, Square was able to manage power consumption in a way that isn’t an issue with conventional payment terminals that don’t run off batteries. It was also able to offload some computation tasks into its iOS and Android apps, reducing the need for round-trip communication between reader and mobile device and thereby conserving battery juice.

I’ve used the new reader at a coffee shop in Washington DC, and it worked well, though it did take a little back and forth with the cashier to get it set up. Square makes great hardware; I’ve used the headphone-jack dongle for years, and it’s been a huge help.

In general, my experience with EMV cards has been that they’re slower than the old magnetic strip swipe, but that’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make for better security.1 Apple Pay is better than either, but it’s still lacking widespread adoption. At least the Square reader makes it more accessible for smaller shops.

I’d still like to see a person-to-person Apple Pay system, but I have a feeling that’s still a ways off.


  1. So far only two of my cards have switched over to a chip. ↩