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5 Best Mobile POS Apps

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But first of all, there’s one really important question we have to address: What constitutes an mPOS anyway? As with a lot of industry-related terms, you’ll see some differing interpretations. I’m a bit of a purist in that I believe a truly mobile POS is one that operates on a smartphone OR tablet. But I was challenged to expand my views a little bit. The mPOS systems you’ll find on this list all fit the following criteria:

  • They must function on some sort of tablet (iPad or Android), but preferably also a smartphone (iOS, Android, or both).
  • They must be cloud-based, meaning all information is backed up and stored online automatically, rather than requiring any sort of local networking.

Whether you’re choosing your first POS or looking to switch from a solution that isn’t working for you, it doesn’t matter. We’ve put together a list of the best mPOS options out there at various price points. These systems will work as primarily countertop solutions, traveling POS systems for events, and more, and for both retail and restaurant businesses.

The Top 3 Mobile POS Systems for 2018

HeadingSquareShopKeepShopifyPayment Depot
 

Payment Depot merchant services review

Review Visit SiteReview Visit SiteReviewVisit SiteReviewVisit Site
Key FeaturesAll-In-One Solution, Upgrade PotentialAdvanced FeaturesFree Chip Reader, Integrate Online SalesFree Chip Reader, All-Purpose
Pricing ModelFlat RateFlat RateFlat RateFlat Rate
Entry-Level Monthly Fee$0$0$9$10
Standard Retail Rates2.75% totalVaries2.70% total2.60 + $0.10 total
Standard eCommerce Rates2.90% + $0.30 total

Varies

2.90% + $0.30 total3.20% + $0.10 total
Free TrialAlways FreeUp to $5K monthly14 DaysDemo Available

Read on for a quick look at each of our favorite mobile point-of-sale apps! Don’t forget to check out our in-depth reviews of each product if they pique your interest, either. If a mobile app with built-in processing suits your fancy, check out our mobile processing comparison chart. You can also check out our iPad POS reviews for some more options that are compatible with an assortment of merchant accounts and gateways!

Have questions? Thoughts about which products should also make the cut? We’re always happy to hear from readers, so please leave us a comment!

Square

With a suite of features that work just as well for retailers as they do for quick-serve restaurants and cafes, it’s no surprise that Square (see our review) makes the list. Square has a major presence with quick-serve businesses and cafes, but it’s also common among retailers and mobile service businesses thanks to its versatility. Plus, a free online store and shopping cart integrations open the possibility of selling online. Square works as well on an iPad with countertop stand — complete with receipt printer and cash drawer — as it does on a smartphone with a Bluetooth card reader and emailed receipts. All you need is an internet connection (cellular or Wi-Fi).

Square’s feature set is definitely the best that you can get with a free POS. In addition to your standard array of checkout features (tipping, discounts, split tenders, show change), Square offers inventory tracking with low-stock alerts, modifiers, and variants. You can also create and send invoices from within the app or the web dashboard to cover custom orders and commissions. While Square supports cash drawer management and sign & tip on printed receipts, these features aren’t the default, so you’ll have to configure them yourself. Adding support for gift cards costs nothing more than the actual cards themselves, unlike some providers who charge an extra monthly fee or require you to sign up for a higher tiered service plan. And Square offers an offline mode that allows you to process transactions with no internet signal, so long as you connect to the internet within 72 hours.

Best Overall Mobile POS


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Highlights

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

As far as hardware goes, merchants who run Square on an iPad can select the Square Stand, a tablet stand and integrated card reader for countertop setups. However, you can also get the card readers separately and use them in a freeform mobile arrangement. Square supports an assortment of receipt printers and cash drawers, as well as USB and Bluetooth barcode scanning.

However, certain features only work with iPads, or only Android devices, or only tablets (iPad or Android) but not smartphones. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason as to which features work on which device, but you should definitely make sure all the features you want are available on the device of your choosing. However, if all else fails, Square’s dashboard can handle everything the app cannot.

With the free Point of Sale app, Square charges no monthly fees and imposes no monthly minimums. You’ll pay 2.75% for swiped, dipped, or tapped transaction, or 3.5% + $0.15  for keyed entry. Online and invoice transactions are processed at 2.9% + $0.30. If you opt for services such as the loyalty program, employee management (with staff PINs, timekeeping, etc.), or even payroll, you can expect additional monthly costs. Also worth noting, Square is a third-party processor, meaning that all merchants do face a potential risk for a sudden account hold or termination. This is a result of the business model: Square does very little underwriting before approving your account and is, therefore, more active in seeking out red flags when you begin processing payments. Square will work for a good many businesses, but it’s not for everyone. In particular, high-risk businesses will find themselves unable to work with Square.

And now for the other disclaimer: Point of Sale (the free app) isn’t Square’s only POS product. These days Square has its own iPad-exclusive POS apps: Square for Retail (read our review) and Square for Restaurants. Plus, service businesses can use Square Appointments as booking software and a POS. They all come with different monthly fees and process transactions at different rates than the standard 2.75%.

Square’s Featured Products

ReadereCommerceRetailFood Service
Free App & ReaderSquare eCommerceSquare for RetailSquare for Restaurants
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and AndroidEasy integration with popular platforms plus API for customizationSpecialized software for more complex retail storesSpecialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month$0/month$60/month$60/month
Always FreeAlways FreeFree TrialFree Trial

 We’re not featuring these other points of sale systems in this review because you could honestly write a lengthy article about the differences and each app’s different features. But generally speaking, Square’s alternative POS apps haven’t been quite as full-fledged as their competitors’, either. Still, you may find some worth pursuing. 

Finally, Square has an extensive assortment of hardware for merchants to choose from, including a magstripe/chip card reader that sells for $29, a Lightning adapter for iPhone users, and more. A Bluetooth enabled chip card reader goes for $49 and includes contactless payment methods, too. Perhaps the best thing about Square’s hardware is that for purchases totaling $49 or more, Square offers financing. And whereas many lease and financing programs can be quite expensive and lead you to sometimes pay twice or three times the value of the equipment, Square’s financing options are quite reasonable. There’s certainly a markup, but it’s not exorbitant by any means.

Get Started With Square

ShopKeep

ShopKeep (read our review) is an exception to a lot of rules. You’d think, for starters, that with a name like ShopKeep, you’d be pretty retail focused. But the reality is this iPad POS app offers features for quick-serve business such as cafes as well as food trucks and bars, right alongside its retail capabilities. And generally speaking, any company that doesn’t disclose pricing for its software or payment processing is an automatic red flag. But somehow ShopKeep has managed to avoid the pitfalls and make its way to the top ranks for POS systems despite these issues.

You’ll see the same generalized POS features you’ll find with just about any system, including gift card support. Employee management (including unlimited users) lets your staff clock in and out of their shifts in the app. ShopKeep’s inventory tracking includes raw goods tracking, low-stock alerts, profitability reporting, and more. It’s quite advanced for a suite of software targeted at small businesses, though ShopKeep doesn’t pull certain features (such as raw ingredient tracking) off as well as other POS systems do.

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Highlights

  • Powerful retail and restaurant tools
  • Available on iPad (Analytics app on iOS)
  • Multiple hardware options available
  • Pricing based on custom quotes 
  • Loyalty program only as add-on

Excellent all-around POS: Get your custom quote

For restaurants, the app makes it easy to send orders to the kitchen and split and merge tickets as needed. Plus, the ShopKeep system automatically syncs and updates tickets on every register, giving a new meaning to the idea of mobile. For retail, the ability to bulk upload products via CSV spreadsheet will save time, as will the Bluetooth barcode scanners. ShopKeep doesn’t have its own loyalty program, but it does integrate with AppCard to provide one.

While you won’t find ShopKeep supported anywhere but on an iPad, business owners can supervise their business on any iOS device using ShopKeep Pocket. It’s just a mobile app targeted at reporting, but much like the web dashboard for Square, ShopKeep pocket lets you keep an eye on the whole of your business, from inventory to performance at different locations.

Get Started With ShopKeep

Shopify

  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • $9 monthly subscription fee
  • 2.7% per US card swipe
  • Free chip card reader ($29 retail)
  • Suitable for most retail businesses

Shopify started as an ecommerce software provider (check out our complete review), but it’s moved into the realm of an all-in-one provider with its own integrated payments service and a surprisingly robust POS. Its entry-level service plan, Shopify Lite (read our review) comes at a very low monthly fee and provides access to that POS system as well as limited online selling tools (buy buttons and a Facebook shop). If you’re just testing the waters for online sales and don’t want to invest in shopping cart software and want to continue with in-person sales, Shopify Lite is a great starter option. It’s also a good solution if you want a low-priced, retail-focused POS that’s a little bit more robust than free software. One of the big draws with Shopify is how easily you can upgrade and scale as your business grows.

As far as POS features go, you can expect standard checkout features. At the moment, Shopify doesn’t support tipping, but that feature is supposed to arrive sometime during summer 2018). You can integrate your online discounts plus create separate discounts per item or order. Shopify POS’s inventory tools include tracking and item variants, as well as SKUs/Barcodes. The app doesn’t allow add-ons/modifiers, but it does include other tools for sorting and organizing your inventory. You can also send invoices from within the app.  Other features, including better multi-location inventory management, are also supposed to roll out during summer 2018.

Shopify POS‘s checkout features include standard fare plus support for store credit, partial payments/layaway, and custom payment methods (Note: these are iPad exclusive). Gift cards only available with Shopify’s mid-tier or higher plans. Sales tax is automatically calculated based on your store locations, so it probably isn’t the best for roaming service-based business, but it will work for pop-up events and line-busting.

If you think $9/month for all that is too good to be true, you’re probably right. There is a slight catch: On its own, the Shopify POS does not allow you to connect cash drawers, receipt printers, or barcode scanners. For that, you’ll need to add the Retail Package to your service plan. At $49/month it provides the hardware integrations, as well as staff PIN access to the app.

MobilePOSOnlineSocial Media
Mobile App + Free Card ReaderPoint of SaleOnline StoreSocial Media Selling
Get StartedGet StartedGet StartedGet Started
Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardwareAll-purpose POS integrated with all sales channelsBuild a store or integrate with your current websiteSell on Facebook and other platforms
Starts at $9/monthStarts at $29/monthStarts at $29/monthStarts at $9/month
Free TrialFree TrialFree TrialFree Trial

Payment Processors with Shopify Lite

While Shopify does support external gateways (for an additional transaction fee) it favors its own built-in payments solution, Shopify Payments. It’s really just a white-label version of Stripe, which means that Shopify Payments has the same sort of account instability risks that PayPal and Square have. With Shopify Payments as your processor, merchants pay 2.7% for in-person transactions and 2.9% + $0.30 for online, keyed, and invoiced transactions on both the Shopify Lite and Shopify Basic plans.

It’s also worth noting that Shopify Basic and higher plans all include the Shopify POS at no additional charge (you’ll still have to pay extra for the Retail Package, however). Shopify’s mid-tier and Advanced plans offer rate discounts with Shopify Payments, too. Also, Shopify offers a free Bluetooth-enabled chip card reader for its merchants, which normally retails for $29.

Get Started With Shopify

For UK-Based Businesses: iZettle

iZettle is sometimes called the Square of Europe. I don’t necessarily think that’s an accurate description (we’ll get into all the reasons why later on), but it’s easy to see why it’s a leading choice in Europe.

While iZettle currently serves Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the UK, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, the Netherlands, and France, we’ve primarily focused on its service quality in the UK.

iZettle’s Services At A Glance

ReaderPOSecommerceinvoice

Mobile Processing

Point of Sale

Online Store

Invoicing

Claim £19 Offer

Sign up for Free

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Get Started

Card reader is only £19 for a limited time (Normally £59)

Specialised upgrades are available

Integrate with all sales channels

Easy one-time and recurring billing

Always £0/month

£0/month for standard app

14-day free trial

Always £0/month

1.75% for in-person sales

1.75% for in-person sales

2.5% for ecommerce sales

2.5% for invoiced sales

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

Europe only. Does not serve US or Canadian businesses. 

We have found that iZettle offers high-quality service, honest marketing, and a capable mobile app. There are a couple of shortcomings with iZettle’s service. There’s no offline processing, no manual entry, and no gratuities. It is a basic app in many ways, but at the same time, it has everything you absolutely need to run a business and accept credit cards.

Given everything I’ve seen, I am confident in recommending that you give iZettle a shot in the UK and other supported countries. The company gets a favorable 5 stars for UK-based merchants.

Get Started with iZettle for the UK

Lavu

  • For iOS devices
  • $79 monthly subscription fee ($69/month on annual plan)
  • Integrates with Square or PayPal
  • Chip card reader available (Prices vary)
  • Suitable for most restaurants (especially full-service)

Whereas PayPal Here and Square are all-purpose POS systems and Shopify (mostly) targets retail businesses, Lavu (read our review) is designed to cater exclusively to restaurants. The good news is that Lavu embraces all kinds of eateries, from quick-service businesses to pizzerias and full-service restaurants. In addition to advanced inventory, Lavu really embraces the idea of “mobile” by enabling multiple iOS devices to operate in “tableside” mode to take orders, while maintaining 1 (or 2 or more) terminals. That means servers can plug in orders and send them directly to the kitchen while at their customers’ tables, reducing errors and improving efficiency all around. And it’s also possible to enable a “kiosk” mode so customers can enter their own orders, send them to the kitchen, and pay their bills without requiring a server.

Let’s start with the restaurant-specific features. Lavu lets you create layouts of your restaurant in the app (including multiple rooms) and assign seats and course numbers. You can send orders to specific printers within the kitchen depending on how yours is set up. There’s also a KDS system within the app if you decide you’d rather skip the kitchen tickets. And if you want to integrate online ordering and delivery, Lavu offers a whole suite of interesting features.

Lavu offers extensive customization tools for menus, including the creation of forced and optional modifiers — that is, some modifiers that must have an option selected (such as preference for doneness on a steak or burger), and others, such as adding a topping not included by default. A special pizza creation menu interface targets pizza restaurants in particular. You can also create discounts and happy hour promotions.

Inventory management is just as comprehensive, with bundling and combo building features to track your stock levels and ensure orders get to the correct kitchen ticket printer. An 86 countdown lets you know when you’re about to run out of something. Plus, Lavu includes purchase order management and bulk inventory uploads.

As far as the ordering and checkout system, most of this is standard fare. Separate out checks and split them any number of ways; auto-suggest tip amounts; sign receipts or digitally; and print or email the final receipt. Other noteworthy features include gift card support and a loyalty program — separately, they’ll run you $25/month, but bundled together that price drops to $40/month. Lavu’s employee management tools including staff scheduling, setting pay rates and assigning roles, and clocking in and out. That also includes cash drawer items.

Lavu’s offline mode is somewhat limited. You can continue to send orders to the kitchen and accept cash payments, but credit card payments are not available.

Payment Processors with Lavu 

Lavu offers several different payment processors to integrate with. Some of them are even processors we’ve reviewed, but the ones I’d like to point out are PayPal and Square. As we’ve already mentioned, both are third-party payment processors (often referred to as aggregators). That does mean a certain amount of inescapable risk for sudden account terminations or holds if their systems flag a suspicious transaction, but for the most part, most businesses with steady, stable growth will do just fine with either processor.

With Square (read our review) you’ll pay exactly the same rates as if you were using the company’s own software: 2.75% per in-person (swiped/dipped/tapped) transaction and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions.

It’s worth noting that you’ll need to create a Square account and download the Square app to your device in addition to the Lavu app in order to process payments. That’s because Lavu will switch over to Square to finish processing transactions, meaning you’ll have to control and adjust some transaction settings in Square.

PayPal is Lavu’s preferred payments partner. You’ll pay almost exactly the same as you would with Square, at 2.7% for card-present transactions and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed entry. You’ll still have to create your own PayPal account, but the integration is more complete and you won’t be switching between apps.

As far as hardware, Lavu has its own shop where you can purchase starter bundles for terminals as well as all the accessories. Generally speaking, Lavu doesn’t like its merchants purchasing hardware from third-party sites, and that includes card readers. Contact the Lavu sales team to get the equipment you need — though you should certainly ask if you can also purchase it directly from Square or PayPal.

Get Started With Lavu

Vend

  • For PC, Mac, and iPad
  • $119 monthly subscription fee ($99/month on annual plan)
  • Integrates with Square (2.9% + $0.30) or PayPal (2.7%)
  • Chip card reader available (Prices vary)
  • Suitable for all retail businesses

Vend (read our review) offers a web-based POS system for Mac and Windows computer, but it also has a powerful iPad app that you can take on the go for mobile setups, or integrate as your countertop register. Everything syncs in the cloud, giving you options for how you want to set up your business and payment processing. And, an ecommerce integration allows you to sell online as well as in your shop. While Vend will run you a hefty sum compared to the other options in this list, you do get quite a few advanced features and an integrated loyalty program at no additional costs, which could justify the price tag. While you can run Vend from a computer, we’re going to focus on the most recent version of the iPad app, called Vend Register.

Because Vend is a full-fledged POS and not just a free entry-level product, you can and should expect many features beyond the basic. You’ll find the standard array of checkout tools, except for one notable absence: tipping. This isn’t too surprising given that Vend is more retail focused. But since there are scheduling integrations for Vend, it would have been nice to see native support for this feature. You will get store credit, on-account/layaway sales, and cash drawer management, as well as a built-in and highly customizable loyalty program, plus gift card support. Vend offers powerful and flexible discounting tools and tax management tools that work well for multiple locations or complex inventories.

On the inventory front, in addition to the standard inventory listings and item tracking (note: SKUs are mandatory), Vend offers the ability to create multiple price books for different locations or temporary promotions. You can also bundle items or sell partial quantities — such as wine by the glass or a yardage of fabric. Additionally, Vend supports a customer-facing display for countertop register setups, as well as multiple user accounts and custom permissions.

Payment Processors with Vend Register 

If you plan to use Vend Register, you have a choice of three payment processors with Vend: Square (read our review), PayPal (read our review), and Vantiv (read our review). While Vantiv has our general recommendation as an option, merchants do tend to struggle with contracts and fees when they go through Vantiv. If you want guaranteed transparent, predictable pricing and a quick setup, Square and PayPal are your better options. As we’ve already covered, both are third-party processors which does mean a small but inevitable risk for holds or terminations if they note suspicious behavior on your account. Both are pay-as-you-go processors with no monthly fees or any other costs associated with integrating with Vend. (Note: if you use Vend’s ecommerce features, your processing options are a bit different.)

With Square (read our review), you’ll pay 2.9% +$0.30 per in-person transaction and 3.5% + $0.15 for any keyed entry. That does mean merchants with low-value tickets will end up paying more than they would with just a flat percentage-based transaction fee. If you have a very small transaction size (under $20) this isn’t ideal for you.

To make the Square integration work, you’ll need to create a Square account, download the Square app to your mobile design, and make sure you are signed into both Square and Vend. However, the good news is the Square Stand with its Contactless + Chip Reader is compatible with Vend, so you can get a stylish and well-built tablet stand to run Vend from in a countertop setup.

PayPal (read our review) charges 2.7% per in-person transaction and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed entry. Merchants who process more than $10k/month with Vend+PayPal may qualify for volume discounts, too. With PayPal’s integrations, your only option is the PayPal Chip Card reader, a branded Miura M010 device. It retails for $79 on PayPal’s site, but when you sign up for PayPal and Vend and process $3,000 in credit card transactions in three months you’re eligible for a rebate that brings the price to $49.

Get Started With Vend

Honorable Mention: PayPal

PayPal is an interesting tool because it’s as much a consumer wallet as it is a payment processor for millions of businesses worldwide. In addition to enabling online sales with “buy” buttons and shopping cart integrations, PayPal has its own mPOS, called PayPal Here (read our review). While it certainly doesn’t rival iPad POS systems the way Square does, it’s more than satisfactory for businesses that don’t need a lot of advanced features. It functions as well for brick-and-mortar businesses with a countertop setup as it does for mobile service businesses, artists, and others who work pop-up events. Notably, PayPal Here supports a handful of Windows mobile devices, which is a rarity. Once again, all that’s required is an Internet connection, either cellular or Wi-Fi.

Try PayPal with Vend POS

With PayPal Here you can expect a standard array of checkout options — recording for cash and checks, split tender, show change for cash. Inventory is more limited; specifically PayPal Here doesn’t track inventory numbers. However, you can add modifiers and create variants, as well as insert barcodes/SKUs. Again, you’ll see support for in-app invoicing, as well as a cash drawer, receipt printer, and barcode scanners. PayPal Here provides a more universal experience than Square, mostly because it doesn’t support many of the Square features that are inconsistent across different devices. You’ll also see PayPal Here has no offline mode, but you do get up to 1,000 sub-user accounts at no charge.

Try PayPal with Lavu POS

With PayPal, you’ll pay a straightforward 2.7% per in person transaction and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed entry. Invoices and any online transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 (though nonprofits may be eligible for a discount that brings the rate down to 2.2% + $0.30 for online transactions). If you need a virtual terminal, PayPal will charge you $30/month, which is a bit of hefty fee when you consider Square offers it for free, but not a deal breaker if you like what else PayPal has to offer.

PayPal is a third-party processor, but with no monthly fee and flat-rate pricing, it’s excellent for low-volume businesses. The predictable costs can also be a draw for small and mid-size businesses. However, be aware of the potential for account instability issues (holds and terminations). PayPal is also not a good option for high-risk businesses.

PayPal is easily the most basic option on this list, but that’s largely because PayPal has chosen instead to focus on a wide array of integrations, from POS systems (including a few on this list) to website builders and more.

How to Find the Best Mobile POS For Your Needs

There’s plenty of great software out in the world, but a great piece of software doesn’t mean it’s right for your business. You need to look at all sorts of factors to make the final decision as to which products to pursue. So here are some questions for you to consider in your search:

  • How much can I afford to pay for software and hardware?
  • Do I prefer an app that has a built-in processor or would I like to choose my own?
  • Which features must I absolutely have?
  • Which features would I like to have?
  • Does this software integrate with any other software solutions I currently use?
  • If not, am I willing to switch to one that does integrate?
  • Is my business model compatible with my preferred payment processor?

These are just a few ideas to get you going. Ultimately it’s your call as to which mPOS will work for your business. Keep in mind that you’ve got lots of options, though!

As always, thanks for reading. We’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorite mobile POS systems. Which ones did you love (and which ones did you hate?). Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts!

HeadingSquareShopKeepShopifyPayment Depot
 

Payment Depot merchant services review

Review Visit SiteReview Visit SiteReviewVisit SiteReviewVisit Site
Key FeaturesAll-In-One Solution, Upgrade PotentialAdvanced FeaturesFree Chip Reader, Integrate Online SalesFree Chip Reader, All-Purpose
Pricing ModelFlat RateFlat RateFlat RateFlat Rate
Entry-Level Monthly Fee$0$0$9$10
Standard Retail Rates2.75% totalVaries2.70% total2.60 + $0.10 total
Standard eCommerce Rates2.90% + $0.30 total

Varies

2.90% + $0.30 total3.20% + $0.10 total
Free TrialAlways FreeUp to $5K monthly14 DaysDemo Available
Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson has been writing about payment processing and mobile payments since 2014, and has been quoted in articles for Credit Karma and The Next Web, among others. She graduated from The University of Kansas in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism.
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