Clover Flex Review
- Works for countertop and mobile POS setups
- Supports magstripe, chip card, and contactless payments
- Built-in receipt printer
- 8-hour battery life
- Runs full Clover POS
- Large, somewhat clunky design
- Pricing and contract terms vary by providers
- Glitchy software
Clover Flex Overview
I didn’t really know what to expect out of the Clover Flex. My personal experience with Clover has, until now, been limited to the Clover Go mobile app — an entirely different beast. When I first picked up the device, my thought was that this was going to be a hardware-focused review. However, when I started testing out the Flex in earnest, it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to approach this as just a hardware review. I had to consider the software as well — and more importantly, how the two blend together to create the final product: a somewhat-mobile POS device with built-in card readers and a receipt printer.
As the name suggests, the Clover Flex is meant to bridge the gap between a stationary POS device and a mobile reader: it can double as either — or both. You have the flexibility to decide. Unfortunately, I don’t really think the Flex is as mobile as Clover hoped it would be. It’s clunky and awkward to hold. It is bigger than a mobile-capable device should be, and it’s certainly not ergonomic.
That said, the Clover Point of Sale app is a very powerful POS solution, and the features available can work with a variety of business types, from restaurants to retail businesses. And the Clover Flex is certainly a capable device. The hardware is absolutely functional, even if it leaves just a little something to be desired, aesthetically.
The biggest hurdle to the Clover Flex (as with most Clover products) is pricing/contract terms. How much you’ll pay for the hardware and payment processing will depend on which company you choose to sign up with. You can go directly to Clover.com to get the low hardware costs and predictable payment processing through First Data. However, some of First Data’s resellers offer better processing pricing and contract terms, even if the hardware might cost a little bit more. (Others might offer terrible pricing and terrible contract terms, so steer clear of anyone promising a deal that seems too good to be true — stick with our recommended Clover providers instead.)
The Clover Flex makes the most sense if you already have a Clover setup and want to be able to take it mobile. I have a hard time seeing anyone wanting to use the Flex as their primary POS device. If you really do want a small-profile mobile POS device with affordable pricing, you can get all of that from the Square Terminal, with far fewer headaches.
For all of these reasons, the Clover Flex earns a solid 4 stars. I have a hard time saying it’s a well-designed piece of hardware, and I’m not fond of how varied the costs and contract terms for Clover products are. But the software itself provides a powerful solution for all kinds of businesses and the Flex can handle countertop and mobile use. It is even possible to get a good deal on hardware with a fair contract and affordable payment processing. Read on for more details.
Table of Contents
Unlike the stationary Clover Station and Clover Mini, the Clover Flex is a handheld device meant to be taken mobile. If I’m honest, it’s definitely an improvement over its predecessor, the Clover Mobile, in terms of design. Mobile had a massive amount of awkwardness about it and it didn’t look particularly portable.
But is the Clover Flex actually designed well? Check out the Clover Flex unboxing video above for the whole story, but here are the main points:
In addition to the Clover Flex itself, you’ll also get a separate “starter kit” that contains essential accessories — namely, the Flex charging base, cable, and power brick, the starter manual, a roll of receipt paper, and a screwdriver (the purpose of which eluded me until I looked at the startup guide and found out it’s a tool for replacing the SIM card).
Around the edge of the Flex, you’ll find the card readers, various buttons, and some secondary features of the Flex: a power button, a barcode scanner, speakers and an audio jack, and even a USB Type C port. Placement of these features is pretty standard if you’re familiar with a smartphone — just on a larger scale. The Clover Flex manual and online help materials include a neat little graphic that shows what everything is.
Let’s talk about the biggest design-related issue: The Clover Flex is much bigger than a mobile device should be, in my opinion. It’s just about the size of an early 90s brick cell phone, but with a 5-inch smartphone screen instead of buttons. I felt most stable holding the Flex in both my hands and using my thumbs to navigate and type.
It’s also top-heavy thanks to the receipt printer at the top of the device, which makes it a bit unwieldy. The Flex is encased in smooth white plastic. It doesn’t feel particularly prone to slipperiness, but Clover does include a silicone bumper case with it as well. I don’t think the case makes it any easier to hold, but it will offer shock protection if you drop it.
The Clover Flex also includes a charging dock — the base is contoured to fit the handgrip on the flex. The charging cable is about three feet long, so it can definitely sit on a counter.
Overall, the Flex is functional. The hardware design team clearly put thought into some aspects of the Flex, while others fell by the wayside. But let’s talk about some of the more technical aspects of the Flex, too.
Clover Flex Device Specs
As you might expect from a device calling itself a Flex, Clover throws in magstripe, chip card, and contactless payment support, which is nice to see. All of this is great, but it’s certainly not anything ground-breaking. (Please keep in mind that in Canada they’ve been using wireless terminals that can accept magstripe, chip card, and contactless payments plus print receipts for years. This sort of technology and hardware design is just new to the US.)
The Clover Flex officially measures 7.7 inches tall by 3.2 inches wide by 2 inches deep (that sounds small, but it feels anything but when it’s in your hands). The 5-inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass, the same stuff used by most Android smartphones. The screen is a good size and the resolution seems fine (Clover’s spec sheet says it’s 720p HD).
The Flex’s screen size is pretty reasonable for a mobile device, but there’s also a large open space above the screen where the NFC chip and receipt printer are located, which makes the whole device much bigger.
Loading a roll of receipt paper is quite simple. The drawer pops open easily but also seems to latch securely. However, the roll of receipt paper does rattle about a bit. Giving the Flex a little shake didn’t make the drawer pop open, but personally, the sound of the paper roll rattling around would drive me nuts.
The Clover Flex comes with a 2100 mAh battery, which is a little bit weaker than what you’ll find in most high-end smartphones these days. However, 2100 mAh is definitely robust enough to run a device like the Flex for a standard business day (8 hours). Just keep in mind that your mileage may vary depending on whether your shop is busy and you rely heavily on the Flex, whether you keep it on the dock when not in use, or whether you just use it for line busting or occasional tableside ordering.
I do like that the device has a built-in tool to analyze your usage and develop smarter, more accurate estimates of your remaining battery life, so you should be able to trust those estimates, all other factors remaining constant.
Also, the Flex has a built-in camera at the top of the device. While I can’t attest to the image quality, you may find it to be a helpful feature. The Flex’s internal storage is limited to about 8 GB, which will certainly hold a good amount of photos, but is about two times smaller than your standard smartphone (which typically offer at least 16 GB of storage).
Getting Started With the Clover Flex
The device itself is pretty simple to set up. As I mentioned above, the Clover Flex started up with just about half its battery, which is pretty standard for most electronics in my experience.
But let’s commence with what you need to do to get your Clover Flex set up for the first time. Obviously, that starts with powering up the device and choosing your default language. After that, the real setup process begins, starting with your data connection settings. The Clover Flex comes with a mobile data connection (for an additional monthly cost), but you can also set the Flex up to work with WiFi or an Ethernet connection. You can complete the setup process using any of these three connections.
Once you’re connected and the Flex has downloaded any software updates, Clover will ask you to enter your activation code. Clover will send you the code via email when your device ships, but you can also access it in your online portal at Clover.com. I also conveniently received a reminder email about my activation code shortly after I powered the Clover Flex up for the first time. However, if your cellular provider isn’t great at giving you timely notifications, remember that you can look back at your previous emails or log in to the dashboard to get the code.
After you enter the activation code, Clover will download your apps for you. Then, you’ll need to set up the receipt printer, which really is as simple as popping the roll of paper in and closing the Flex up. You can print a test receipt to make sure the printer is working as it should.
The second-to-last step in setting up your Clover Flex is deciding what software plan you want. Clover offers two choices: Register Lite, and Register. We’ll talk about these options in the Software Design and Pricing sections, but for now, just know that you need to pick which plan you’d like to start with. Once you’ve done that, Clover will also ask you to opt into the Wireless Manager add-on, which allows you to have cellular data in addition to WiFi or Ethernet. If you don’t opt-in, you won’t have a backup data option if your Internet goes down, but the Wireless Manager isn’t mandatory.
Finally, you’ll be asked to enable a couple of settings before your Flex is fully set up. For starters, you can require users to enter a passcode to unlock the device. You can also specify whether you want to accept tips and collect signatures on printed receipts or on the Clover Flex screen.
It does sound like a lot, but I have been very detailed in the setup process here! It shouldn’t take you more than about 10-15 minutes to get everything set up, unless you need to do some research into the software plans or your data connection is unbelievably slow.
Software Design & Features
I always knew that Clover was very modular, but I didn’t really understand just how much until now — nor did I understand why Clover refers to its inventory tools, customer database, and reporting tools as “apps.” I thought it was a marketing gimmick, not a literal explanation. Having the opportunity to actually test out the Clover Flex finally shed some light on the mysteries of Clover’s point-of-sale system.
For starters, Clover POS isn’t really a single app with many components. It’s more like an entire mobile OS that replaces phone calls with payment processing. (The Clover Flex is built on an Android device, so you can think of it as a really hefty cell phone if it helps.) Inventory isn’t in a separate tab or buried in a menu within an app — it’s an entirely separate app that you open.
The Clover Flex runs the full Clover POS, and it’s compatible with the Clover Station and Clover Mini. If you need a full-fledged register/countertop POS system, you can get that and use the Flex devices as a supplement. That does mean that orders created on one device can be completed on the other, which is very important if you’re dealing with mobile hardware and a mobile staff.
Because the Flex, Mini, and Clover Station all run the same POS and operate together, I do encourage you to also check out our Clover Station and Clover Mini reviews for a better idea of what they can do. Keep in mind that Clover is a full-fledged POS and so it does have many of the features you would expect with a traditional POS app. I would just like to highlight some of the most important ones here.
Inventory Management With The Clover Flex
Because the Clover Flex POS is meant to be mobile, it doesn’t support a few of the inventory features that the Clover Station and Mini do. For example, you can’t connect a scale to weigh products. However, you can create items (with variants), categories, and modifiers from the Flex. You can also adjust the settings for Clover to track stock counts and costs, but this feature isn’t enabled automatically.
The Flex lets you create fixed price, per-unit, and variable price items. Fixed price is for standard wares, whereas per-unit pricing will ask you to specify a unit and a price per that unit. When you select the item to ring up, you’ll need to enter the quantity. With variable price items, you’ll simply enter the cost when you add the item to an order. This feature could be helpful for, say, art galleries that have a rotating inventory of paintings by a select few artists. You could set the item up as “NAME painting” and simply plug in the price of that particular painting. But there are many other uses as well.
I mentioned earlier that the Flex has a built-in barcode scanner, and you can actually use it to load inventory into the app. Simply scan the barcode and the Flex will import that data in the POS. This could be a major time-saver for some businesses.
Payment Processing With The Clover Flex
Clover Flex mobile payments are broken down into three apps: Register, Orders, and Sale. Register is where you can find all of your inventory and add products to the cart. Orders pulls up any open tickets so you can complete the transactions. Sale is the standard quick-sale mode where you simply plug in an amount and swipe, dip, or tap the card.
However, you have access to all sorts of settings related to payments directly on the Flex, starting with the basics: tax and tip. The tip settings are fairly intuitive but the tax settings might require a bit more thought, depending on where your business is located. While I won’t say the Flex’s tax settings are the most advanced I’ve seen, they’re definitely flexible.
Most payment-related settings are in the Clover Setup app, including customizing your accepted payment tenders and whether a transaction triggers a cash drawer opening.
However, there are a couple of things that confuse me about Clover’s POS. I am perplexed by the way that the three apps are built separately, rather than just as a single app. Register and Orders seem to be fairly interoperable (you can switch to one of the apps from within the other), but Sale is completely standalone. (Also, Register has an option for a “custom item,” which makes the Sale app superfluous. The payment/checkout interface for Sale is completely different from Register, too.)
As functional as Clover is, it also seems redundant. I’ve criticized other apps for the same sort of design (see the Payline Mobile/CardPointe review for an example).
Clover’s additional POS features include a customer database, fairly comprehensive in-app reporting, and employee management features, among many others. (There’s a rewards program add-on, timekeeping and payroll, and more, all available from the “More Tools” button on the Flex.)
I do like that you can create custom roles for your employees, set individual logins and restrict which features an employee can access on Clover devices based on their role. This is included at no extra charge and it’s actually fairly advanced.
I wouldn’t want to use the Flex as my primary device for analyzing reports, but the features are a bit more robust than what you’d find on your average mobile device. You can specify the hourly range, the total timeframe (today, yesterday, the past week, the past 30 days, or a custom range), and filter reports by all devices or just your Clover handheld.
With the customer database, you can link transactions to customers and keep a database with their name, contact information, and even their birthday. This is a good foundation for the add-on CRM and loyalty programs that Clover offers.
Ease Of Use
I said earlier that the Clover Flex is fairly simple to set up. But what about actually using the POS and the hardware? My experience with Clover software until this point has been the Clover Go app, which is actually an entirely separate app than the Clover POS, despite bearing the Clover name. (That’s why several Clover features aren’t functional in the Go app.) Clover isn’t quite like any other POS app I’ve tested, and I don’t really know whether to say that’s a good thing.
I am, however, an Android user and have been for several years. So the Clover POS feels familiar to me despite the fact that it differs from most other POS apps I’ve tested. I do think it will be fairly easy for most people to get the hang of, and the user data generally says that Clover is easy to use, too. However, you could find yourself frustrated as you flip through multiple apps trying to find the right one to modify a particular setting. That’s one thing I really don’t like about Clover, that settings are available within the individual apps rather than from a single settings menu. There’s no centralized control for any of the settings.
I also don’t like that Clover doesn’t include any sort of explanation of its navigation. As an Android user, I was able to guess what the three little shape-based icons (a triangle, square, and a circle) mean, but I don’t think everyone will pick up on that. A simple tutorial at startup or an extra page in the setup guide might have been nice.
Clover Flex Price
|Register Lite||A basic item library and tax tracking features. $9.95/month per device, plus 2.7% + $0.10 per transaction.|
|Register||Advanced inventory support and several other features. $39.95/month per device, plus 2.3% + $0.10 per transaction.|
|4G processing||$15 a month add-on|
If you go through Clover.com, Clover Flex will cost you $499. You may be able to find different prices through different vendors, but those may also come with varying processing fees. As for software, you’ll have a choice of two software plans with Clover: Register Lite, and Register.
- Register Lite Plan: A basic item library and tax tracking features. $9.95/month per device, plus 2.7% + $0.10 per transaction.
- Register Plan: Advanced inventory support and several other features. $39.95/month per device, plus 2.3% + $0.10 per transaction.
The Clover Flex price is fairly reasonable for what you get. (Square prices its comparable offering, the Square Terminal, at $299, for reference). The Clover Flex cost is less than the Clover Mini or Clover POS because it’s not the complete POS system — but the Clover Flex handheld will work as an extension of the Clover Station or Clover Mini if you do need a traditional POS setup.
I’m really happy to say that if you go through Clover.com, you can get 0% interest financing on your Clover hardware purchases. And that’s a really awesome fact because you should absolutely buy any Clover hardware outright. If a sales rep so much as mentions the word “lease,” you should run far, far away. First Data (now Fiserv) has a long history of predatory leases, but even if they’ve improved in this regard, buying outright is a better deal. (Read about why you shouldn’t lease hardware.)
However, you don’t just have to worry about the cost of the POS device — we also need to talk about what the Clover software will cost you, and how much you’ll pay for payment processing.
There’s another fee you’ll have to consider, as well: The Wireless Manager add-on, which allows you to have 4G LTE data to process payments if your Internet goes down or you’re a mobile business. At $15/month for data service, that’s actually a pretty reasonable cost, and it’s always nice to have a backup data connection. The Wireless plan comes with 1 GB of mobile data.
That doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that payment processing doesn’t use a whole lot of data to begin with. Unless you’re processing a massive number of transactions every day with no WiFi, you’re not likely to exceed the limit of your data plan — as long as you’re only using it for payment processing (watching support videos and downloading files will add to your data usage). However, if you are worried about your data usage, obviously it’s worth having a WiFi network in place.
I also need to mention that you can’t simply get your own data plan for the Flex and swap out the SIM card. If a stable, permanent Internet connection isn’t available, your only other option would be a mobile hotspot, which uses a cellular data connection to broadcast a mobile WiFi network. (Clover does support an offline mode; however, processing cards offline comes with some risk and isn’t something you should do regularly.)
Finally, I do want to mention that the prices of any Clover hardware will vary if you opt to go through any company other than Clover. For example, another processor could sell Flex for just $89, but might charge high (and sometimes, hidden) fees for payment processing.
If you do go for another payment processor other than Clover/First Data directly, just make sure that they are a reputable name. Many of our top-rated merchant account providers do offer Clover products, along with fair contracts and transparent pricing.
Customer Service & Support
To some extent, your customer support options will depend on which processor you choose to sign up with. Your merchant account provider will often be your front line for all account-related questions. However, for technical support, Clover is the go-to source. (And obviously, if you sign up with Clover directly, they’ll be your point of contact for account-specific issues too.)
Clover offers 24/7 phone support, which is always nice to see. Being able to talk to a support rep in real-time is very important, and being available round the clock? That’s a lot better than many processors offer. Being backed by First Data, which is an absolutely massive company, means access to some serious resources. I like that Clover’s support will help you with basic setup as well as troubleshooting. There’s also a support page on the Clover site with troubleshooting advice.
You can also access customer support resources from your Clover device, which is just good design. (Look for the “Help” app with the question mark icon.) Clover will give you the phone number, email, and your MID right on the screen so you don’t have to scramble for any information. You can also download PDF guides and watch some support videos on your Clover device directly.
I will say that some reports of Clover customer service say it’s spotty at best, but the overall accounts are pretty varied. I’ll talk more about that in the User Reviews section below.
Clover Flex Reviews & Complaints
One of the challenges that we have always faced with reviewing Clover products is user reviews. Parsing all of the data and getting a feel for what merchants love and hate about any piece of software (or hardware) is a big undertaking. Clover is extra challenging because First Data has such a massively huge network of resellers offering the Clover suite, and well…to be honest, some of them are completely terrible. The majority of Clover reviews tend to be extremely negative, and usually focused on payment processing or hardware leases. Even the good reviews tend to focus mostly on the software element — being vague about the hardware, if it’s mentioned at all. With that said, reviews have been slowly trickling in over a variety of places online, enough that a few recurring themes have emerged albeit still from a small sample size.
Negative Reviews & Complaints
- Customers Given Poor Information: More than one reviewer complained that they specifically asked Clover if certain software would be compatible with the Clover Flex, such as a brand of gift card or a third-party app, and were told it wouldn’t be a problem, only to then find out that it doesn’t work.
- Bugs & Restarts: Multiple customers reported very similar-sounding issues about bugs that would either shut down the Flex or cause a restart right in the middle of processing. There are multiple instances of the hardware either freezing up or becoming unresponsive, forcing a hard restart.
- Connection Issues: A few users reported that the machines would often process in offline mode even when connected to wireless, making for slower connection speeds. Similarly, a few reviewers complained that the range on the devices were sub-par, often dropping connectivity from one end of a store to another.
- Battery Life: More than one reviewer noted that the Flex started to have difficulty charging earlier than they would have anticipated and that the battery life got progressively weaker with time.
The other negative complaint that appears quite often with Clover is customer service. I wouldn’t say customer service is the number one complaint about Clover — many merchants actually say Clover support is decent, even bordering on very helpful. I don’t really know why the support experience is so varied, considering that Clover handles customer service for technical matters directly. It’s possible that some sales organizations and processors try to tackle customer support directly before handing off to Clover, but these complaints usually don’t provide enough data for a third-party observer to figure out what’s happening. For now, be aware that customer support could potentially be an issue — but more than likely, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Positive Reviews & Testimonials
- Processing Speed: A good portion of the customers who were happy with the device were particularly pleased with how quickly it processed payments and the speed at which they received funds.
- Ease Of Use: Most customers appreciated how easy the device is to set up and use for both employees and customers.
- Intuitive Design: A few reviewers really liked the feel of the device and found it was simple for their employees and customers to use.
What I can tell you is what users generally think of the software: It’s an all-around decent product. Some businesses love it; others feel that it’s satisfactory even if it isn’t brilliant. The occasional review completely tanks the software and says it’s horribly suited to any number of tasks (inventory, reporting, etc.), but those are generally few and far between. That does help illustrate the point that Clover is an above-average solution for all-around use. However, if you need anything particularly specialized, you might do better to look at a POS system that caters to particular niches.
And of course, we’ve already alluded to the elephant in the room: the negative reviews that pertain to payment processing and the costs of hardware (usually expensive, multi-year leases). In many cases, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to figure out exactly how a merchant signed up for Clover. But speaking as someone who’s been reviewing payment processors for half a decade, the majority of complaints likely come from merchants who were approached by independent sales reps or predatory sales organizations that sell Clover products at a markup and offer long, expensive contracts. These organizations typically operate with very little oversight and have a massive amount of turnover, which means the sales agent who signed a dozen merchants up for Clover last month might not be there this month. At Merchant Maverick, we’ve never liked this model of business. In fact, we’ve always been wary of processors that endorse these practices.
That said, it is possible to get a fair deal on Clover products. Now that you can go through Clover.com directly to purchase hardware and get payment processing with clearly disclosed rates, it’s absolutely worth considering them as an option. Several of our top-rated merchant account providers also offer Clover products, and you would do just as well to go through any of them.
At the end of it all, I still have mixed feelings about the Flex. Clover has made a device that does what it’s intended to do — provide a low-profile countertop POS device as well as a mobile device. But the hardware design itself isn’t fantastic, and borders on clunky. I think the Flex works best as an extension of the Clover system, rather than as a solo device, but it could work as a standalone if you need it to and all of the software features line up for you.
In all, the Clover Flex earns a 4-star rating for its functionality and — pun fully intended here, folks — flexibility. The single biggest concern with any Clover product is making sure you sign up with a reputable processor. If you go through Clover directly, you’ll get the lowest hardware pricing, and a month-to-month agreement with clear, simplified rates. However, other reputable resellers for Clover exist, including Dharma Merchant Services, National Processing, and Payment Depot.
What are your thoughts on the Flex? If you’ve used it, how does it stack up against the other Clover products? Do you have questions? We’re always happy to hear from merchants, so check out our comment guidelines and drop us a line!
The Merchant Maverick Seal of Approval 🏆
After hours of in-depth research and evaluation, we can confidently recommend this brand to our readers. Get started today and see Clover Flex for yourself.
The Merchant Maverick Seal of Approval 🏆
After hours of in-depth research and evaluation, we can confidently recommend this brand to our readers. Get started today and see Clover Flex for yourself.