POS 101: Apple VS Android
The Apple vs. Android debate stretches far and wide, and has lately made its way into to the point of sale world. “Mobile” translates to so much more than just smartphones these days, as tablets can now perform advanced functions that formerly only PCs or traditional POS hardware could handle. But choosing a mobile POS also means choosing a team: iOS (Apple) or Android (Google)?
To make the right choice, you need to disregard whether you prefer Apple or Android in your personal life and choose the one that’s best at the specific task of selling. For example, I like Apple products, mostly because I like iMessages and because my old Motorola Droid took pictures that looked like they were from the American Civil War Era. But fun stuff like texting and Instagramming should not come into play in a point of sale situation. (And if they do come into play, you need to think about firing your cashier, because they are totally slacking.)
So let’s set aside which mobile device might be better for Snapchat or Tumblr, and figure out whether Apple or Android is better for your small business. Read on for a comparison of the respective merits of these two POS systems, both hardware and software-wise, to see whether Apple or Google provides the superior point of sale experience.
Benefits of an Apple POS
Apple-based point of sale systems, which run on the iOS operating system, offer certain advantages to merchants who use them:
1. Some of the best POS’s run exclusively on iOS
Apple is the preferred hardware and software client for the most popular and highest-rated cloud POS systems. For example, ShopKeep, Bindo, Shopify POS, Revel Systems, Lightspeed, and Ambur POS all run exclusively on iOS-enabled Apple devices—primarily iPads. So if you want to use one of these popular cloud POS systems, you’ll have to use Apple devices.
2. iOS devices are more secure than Android devices
Security is obviously important in the POS world, what with the vast amounts of sensitive financial data being exchanged. Cloud-based POS systems are quite secure in general because business-critical data is encrypted and stored in the cloud, rather than on the device itself. However, whether you use an Apple or an Android POS could potentially impact the security of your business.
Those who know tech generally consider Apple devices to be more secure than Android devices and less susceptible to issues such as the Android Stagefright vulnerability discovered in 2015.
The main reason iOS is more secure than Android is Apple’s timely security updates. iOS security updates occur regularly and automatically, across all Apple devices. With Android, Google leaves it up to the individual device manufacturers and service carriers to work together to issue security updates. This means important security updates can take months to reach all Android devices. Also, once Android devices are 18 months old, you may need to buy a new device to continue receiving important security patches.
Additionally, Apple’s permissions and privacy controls setup is arguably more secure than Android’s.
3. Apple delivers a better user experience
This one may be a little controversial, since there are certainly people out there who enjoy using Android more than Apple. But in terms of someone operating a POS, Apple delivers a quantifiably better user experience in several important ways:
- No “bloatware” to slow down your OS — Androids often contain distracting ads and apps from your carrier that you can’t get rid of.
- Better support and warranty program — Apple’s customer support is the best in the business, and AppleCare warranties are more extensive and more affordable than most policies on Android devices (which differ from one device manufacturer to the next).
- A smoother, more fluid interface than Android — This was true when the first iPhone came out in 2007, and it’s still true in 2016. In regard to the speed and fluidity of the iOS user experience vs. Android, tech expert Zach Epstein aptly puts it, “Things as simple and integral as scrolling never exist without hiccups on even the most powerful and modern of Android devices.”
For more about the benefits of an iPad POS, check out our article 10 Surprising Benefits of an iPad POS System (keep in mind, though, that some of these benefits might apply to Android systems too, as we weren’t specifically comparing iPads to Android tablets in that article).
Benefits of an Android POS
Okay, even though Apple excels at some things, there are still some good reasons to use an Android POS over an Apple one:
1. There are some quality Android POS’s, too
Though Apple-centric systems are more popular, this doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a great POS just because you want to use Android. Several highly rated mobile POS’s give you the choice of using Android or iOS—some of these include Square, Vend, ERPLY, and Kounta. (Bindo POS for Android is “coming soon.”) And some POS’s—namely Toast POS for restaurants—run exclusively on Android.
2. Android costs less
An Android tablet is a lot cheaper than an iPad, which means a lower initial cost to get your POS up and running, especially if you have more than one register. Also, if you work in an industry like food service, where waitstaff take tableside orders from tablets, you will inevitably end up with some broken devices that you have to fix or replace. Using an Android POS in this scenario could potentially save you hundreds of dollars per device.
Because Android devices have a lower resale value and are less desirable to consumers in general, there is also a reduced risk of theft when you use Android tablets vs. iPads for your business.
3. Android gives you more options
Apple, in general, gives you fewer options when compared to Android-based devices. With Android, you have way more choices as to the device itself, which gives you more form factor and hardware variations to choose from.
In addition to the varied device choices an Android POS gives you, the architecture of the Android operating system allows for more user customization. If you have developer expertise and want to create a highly customized POS interface, you will be better able to do this on an Android system than on an iOS-based system.
This blog post by Sam Kusinitz goes into a little more depth on the benefits of an Android POS (though this resource has a disclaimer attached to it—it’s published on the “Toast” (Android POS) blog, so just keep in mind that it was written from a pro-Android point of view).
Do All Mobile POS Systems Use Apple or Android?
Some mobile POS systems such as Clover (see Clover Station, Clover Mini) use proprietary tablet hardware, meaning the system doesn’t run on iOS or Android, or any other consumer tablet. Rather, it has its own touchscreen interface and POS operating system created specifically for that point of sale system.
Such systems have one big advantage over iOS and Android: They are not subject to the frequent OS updates or security exploits like consumer tablets. So, POS’s like Clover that use their own proprietary hardware are less susceptible to certain hiccups that might interfere with business-critical POS functions.
Hardware and software created specifically for a POS will probably be more streamlined and POS-centric than multi-purpose consumer tablets such as the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. Obviously, such systems must be judged on an individual basis, but Clover, in particular, is a well-liked POS.
Many cloud-based POS’s also run through regular web browsers on a PC, meaning you don’t need a mobile device at all. But of course, you would probably just call this type of POS setup a “cloud POS” or “web-based POS” rather than a “mobile POS.”
So, Is Apple or Android Better for Business?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question, as it all hinges on your business’s POS needs. If you need a lot of flexibility and customizability, then it’s Android. Apple’s more expensive, but their user experience is top-of-the-line. Apple’s OS architecture is also more secure, but only in theory, as there have not been any high-profile Android POS security breaches.
To figure out whether you should get an Apple or an Android POS—if your budget hasn’t already made that decision for you—you might start by testing out free trials of some different POS’s. For example, you might test out ShopKeep on your iPad and Square on your Samsung Galaxy to see which you like better (you can also check out my ShopKeep vs. Square post to compare specific features and pricing). Restaurants in particular might want to test-drive Toast, which is probably the best Android POS out there; if you want an Apple alternative to compare it to, try Ambur POS.
To evaluate POS’s that run on either Apple or Android, consider testing the same POS on different devices—for example, Vend on an iPad vs. Vend on Android.
Or, if this all sounds like too much work, you can always use our handy POS filtering tool, or even talk to us so we can help you find the right mobile POS setup for your biz. We’re pretty nice, too! Maybe even as nice as those Apple support people.