What are you really getting with an iPad POS?

The iPad POS, whether it be Square Register, Breadcrumb, Shopkeep, or...well the list seems to go on forever. There's no question, it's enticing at first glance—seemingly low to no cost of entry, use an iPad you may already own, and accept credit cards from your customers. That's how it’s marked at least. But is an iPad-based POS system, like Square Register, really the right choice for your business? If you're a low-volume establishment that runs a few transactions per day and doesn't worry about inventory management, then maybe it will do the job. But, for everyone else, and iPad-based POS system just doesn't have a legitimate place in a bar and nightclub environment.

While developing Liquid Assets, we seriously investigated the possibility of a iPad-based POS. It seems like the obvious choice, especially for Apple enthusiasts like ourselves. However, the closer we looked, the more we found that the simplicity and usefulness of the iPad is quickly reduced when adding features necessary for a high-output environment such as a bar or nightclub. Sure, there’s a place for the iPad POS—like the small business selling a few products a day from their low-volume establishment—but those applications are seriously limited when it comes to a high volume business.

Let’s take an example. You start with an iPad, maybe even one you have laying around at home, and download the app. The first step is done and it seems like you’re on your way to a nearly free POS! Well, not so fast. If you’re using a legitimate iPad POS solution, there’ll be a monthly fee, usually somewhere around $99 per iPad station. Next, you’ll need a stand, printer, scanner, credit card reader, charger, case, and cash drawer for your iPad. Oh, and a way to interface all of those separate devices to your iPad, a device which isn’t designed to use a bunch of peripherals (note the lack of an USB port). By the time everything is assembled, you have a tablet with more peripherals than it was ever meant to run, in an environment which isn’t not designed for (wet, sticky, and humid), and relying on a wireless connection to run your entire POS system. Not to mention, the iPad touchscreen just doesn’t work great with wet fingers...or at all with gloves, credit cards, or fingernails.

We’re not knocking the iPad, it’s a fantastic device, no question about it. It just has its limitations, and the bar/restaurant environment is definitely one of them. While there may be a place for the iPhone or iPad in a bar (and we leverage some of those functions), your primary POS station just isn’t one of them. Once you add on all the components it takes to create a robust POS system, the value of the iPad is gone, and the necessary features just aren't there.