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Cube is a cloud-based point of sale software designed for the iPad and it’s a relatively new player on the POS scene. Co-founders Charlie Pinto and Charlie Christner released the Cube app on iTunes in late 2012 after a private, yearlong beta testing period where select businesses vetted the software for bugs and potential problems. Pinto and Christner designed Cube to be a point of sale alternative to the clunky legacy systems that have dominated the POS industry until recently. They also intend Cube to be more than just a simple mobile checkout app. Cube is scalable and can adapt with a business as it grows.
Pinto and Christner brought Cube POS to life in Y-Combinator–the American Idol of the digital startup world. Y-Combinator is an early stage seed-accelerator program and venture fund for digital startups headed by prominent venture capitalist and computer programmer, Paul Graham. Cube is one of many Y-Combinator investments, including Dropbox, AirBnB, and Reddit. Cube also has some notable investors on Angel List (another well-known investment platform) such as Alexis Ohanion, co-founder of Reddit and Paul Bucheit, creator of Gmail. It seems that Cube has some potential based on the interest it’s gained by heavyweight investors.
Despite Cube’s A-list investment team, my final conclusion is that it has got a ways to go before it’s competitive in the POS marketplace. Although Cube has most of the features you would expect from a complete POS solution–the problem is that many of these features are not as fully developed as other POS systems out there. You can read more about Cube’s basic specs and potential issues below. I’ve tried to paint a complete picture with this review so I’ll also cover Cube’s positive features such as the recently released Kitchen Display System app and plans for a suite of value-added integrations to be released by developers at partner companies later in the year. Cube has some significant interface gaps, but it also has some factors working in its favor. Read on for the full story.
Table of Contents
- Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
- Specific Industry:
- Specific Size of Business:
- Ease of Use:
- Hardware and Software Requirements:
- Product Features:
- Integrations and Add-Ons:
- Compatible Credit Card Processors:
- Customer Service and Technical Support:
- Negative Reviews and Complaints:
- Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
- Final Verdict:
Cube has two different pricing routes (see more below): there’s the Per Swipe Plan that charges a 2.5% fee per credit card swipe (3.5% per key-in credit card transaction) and the Enterprise Plan that is custom priced according to business. Both plans are month-to-month. You can upgrade from the Per Swipe Plan to the Enterprise plan, but you can’t downgrade the other direction.
Cube is very clear that there are no hidden fees with the Per Swipe Plan–the 2.5% fee is automatically deducted from your transactions and the rest is deposited into your bank account. That’s it. No fixed fees, interchange fees, setup fees, licensing fees, upgrade fees or maintenance fees. I like the simplicity of this approach.
The Cube Per Swipe Plan is similar to Square’s standard pricing plan, but Cube undercuts the mobile POS heavyweight by offering a 2.5% processing fee instead of Square’s 2.75% rate.
- Per Swipe Plan – 2.5% per swipe. Pay as you go, unlimited users, unlimited terminals, single location, $0.00 hosting fees, Cube credit card processing, no merchant account needed, email and chat support, no monthly fees, and setup support.
- Enterprise – Custom pricing. Unlimited users, unlimited terminals, unlimited locations, customized hosting, Cube credit card processing, use Cube processing or your own, email, chat and phone support, flexible fees, and personalized setup.
Web-Based or Locally-Installed:
Cube is cloud/web-based. All of your data is hosted on cloud servers and synced to your wireless devices. You can access your POS from anywhere in the world that has an internet connection.
Cube can be adapted to different types of businesses. If you run a restaurant or cafe you can enable tips and assign orders to the kitchen printer. If you run a retail shop you can create discounts and accept electronic payment signatures right on your iPad.
Specific Size of Business:
Cube is probably best geared towards small businesses. It could work for small, but growing retail businesses. As far as service industry businesses go, Cube markets itself to quick-service restaurants and mobile food trucks. Cube lacks the features that a larger sit-down restaurant would need like table layouts, reservations, advanced inventory management, and to-go options. Cube is equipped to handle multi-unit businesses and national chains in addition to single locations and mobile businesses.
Ease of Use:
Like many cloud based POS systems, Cube has a front end/back end interface. The front end is the Cube app that runs on the iPad–it’s the software you use to check customers out, manage cash flow, add customers to the database, and clock in and out. The back end management dashboard is accessed online from any device with an internet browser. You can access your Cube back end by logging into your account from the Cube website.
After testing both the front and back end, I have mixed feelings about Cube ease of use: I thought the front end iPad app was relatively user-friendly and easy to navigate. The back end was a different story. The Cube management dashboard is divided into two parts: Settings and Reports. I didn’t find any of it to be intuitive and spent a lot of time navigating through pages trying to find basic functions. Cube stuck inventory and employees under Settings and I found myself wondering why. It makes more sense for them to have their own categories. I prefer it when the dashboard is divided into clearly marked categories like inventory, orders, employees, customers, reports, etc.
Once I got oriented to the management dashboard I added a couple of test categories and products. The new products and categories that I added in the back end didn’t immediately sync to the front end. I did successfully run a test purchase on the front end and the total showed up in the reports area of the back end right away. Some of the other cloud POS apps I’ve reviewed have a refresh or sync button on the iPad app, but I couldn’t locate one in the Cube interface.
As I continued testing the various Cube functions I came to the conclusion that Cube is still a huge work in progress and it lacks some basic features that many other competitors already have in place. Right now Cube doesn’t appear to have the ability to import/export CSV data files. This is a problem when it comes to managing inventory (i.e. wouldn’t it be nice to import/export a spreadsheet with all of your products rather than managing each one manually?). The lack of exporting functions also presents a problem with regards to reports. Cube has some great reporting functions, but they are only somewhat useful if they can’t be exported into some kind of accounting software like Quickbooks.
The Cube inventory feature is also extremely limited. I couldn’t find a way to indicate how many of a certain item are in stock, which seems like a fundamental option for an inventory management tool. You also can’t assign vendors, create vendor product orders, or add photos. It’s a similar situation for the customer data feature. I created a test customer on the front end and while the app captured the contact info just fine, I couldn’t find any trace of the data on the back end. Again, the lack of ability to export customer data is a huge issue in terms of marketing potential. Other POS apps are not only offering well-developed customer data management options, but they are also integrating social media and customer engagement right into the point of sale software.
Cube doesn’t get high marks for ease of use. It’s got a long way to go.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
Cube works with industry standard hardware. Right now it’s only compatible with 2nd and 3rd generation iPads, but an expansion plan to include the iPhone and iPod touch is reportedly in the works. I’ve included a list with pricing below so you can get a general idea on cost. If you already have hardware but you don’t see it listed, Cube recommends that you contact them to see if they can integrate.
- iPad – The iPad 2 runs from $399-$599 depending on the model. The iPad 3 starts at $499 and runs all the way up to $799.
- Printers – Cube is compatible with Star Thermal Printer TSP100 and Star Thermal Printer TSP 143. These range from $200-$250.
- Cash drawer – Cube will work with any standard APG cash drawer. Cash drawers usually cost around $100-$150.
- Credit Card Swipe – If you’re on the Pay Per Swipe plan then you’re required to use Cube’s payment processor which includes a free credit card swipe. You can also go with the Magtek iDynamo Card Swiper that plugs into the audio jack on your phone and costs around$150.
- iPad Enclosures – Since it’s a retail environment, you’ll want to protect your iPad with enclosures and stands. These can vary in price but you can expect to pay something in the neighborhood of $200.
Cube has a lot of standard POS features that you can read about here. I’m going to briefly cover the Cube features that stand out. First off, while I was not impressed with Cube’s inventory or customer management features, the reporting department was stronger and it’s one of the features that Cube highlights in their marketing. Cube breaks down every single transaction in a really clear way. You can sort orders by types of payment (credit card, cash, check, coupon, etc.) and you can monitor refunds and get a real time gauge on your totals. Cube also offers Settlement, Labor and Cash Drawer reports. Still, while these options are good, they aren’t exactly rare. These days most all-in-one POS solutions offer a lot of reporting options, and without the ability to export the reports I stand by my original statement that their usefulness is somewhat limited.
Cube gets more points for its new kitchen display system (KDS) app that acts as a companion to the Cube POS. The KDS app is cool because it’s interactive. A customer can order a hamburger with fries with a waiter out front and then the order is wirelessly transmitted back to the kitchen to the Cube KDS app where cooks can actively adjust and bump orders based on their status. The app is divided into two parts: the left hand side of the screen shows two to four orders while the right hand side shows a running list of the total items that need to be prepared. You can program the app with different levels time alerts (i.e. black, orange, red, flashing red) and you can also use the same app for different stations such as the bar, hot food, and cold food. The Cube KDS has only been out a few months, but you can read more about it on the Cube blog.
I also want to mention that Cube has hinted they are working towards a larger platform that would allow outside developers to create integrations and add-ons to the software. We’re starting to see this trend with other POS systems and for Cube it’s hugely important given several features that their interface lacks. In a December 2012 blog post co-founder Joel Christner describes how Cube is built with open APIs (API stands for Application Programming Interface and is essentially the language and protocol that allows different software components to communicate and integrate with each other) that make it easy for developers to design value-added services that will directly integrate with Cube. If Cube can really get the ball rolling with a platform of add-ons from outside developers, then it might have a chance of distinguishing itself amidst the crowd of other cloud POS systems.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Cube doesn’t have any integrations or add-ons at the moment.
Compatible Credit Card Processors:
Cube offers two different options for credit card processing. If you go with the Pay Per Swipe plan then you are required to run your payments through Cube’s credit card payment processing, which includes built-in PCI compliance with the Cube credit card reader. The Enterprise plan gives you the option to use Cube’s processor OR go with your own.
Note that with the Per Swipe plan you have a daily limit of $5,000 and a weekly limit of $30,000 for credit card transactions, plus a daily limit of $500 and a weekly limit of $3,000 for manually entered credit card transactions. If you think you might exceed these limits you’ll want to go with the Enterprise plan where you can have more control over your daily and weekly maximums.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
Cube offers a couple different ways to get support. If you have the Pay Per Swipe plan then you will have access to support via email and chat. The Enterprise plan includes email, chat, and phone support. I have to say that support resources is another department where Cube feels unfinished. Unlike other more fully developed applications, Cube doesn’t have a suite of Youtube videos that guide users in basic functions. There is no PDF user manual and while there is a support section with articles in different categories, it’s limited, patchy, and a lot of the “articles” only contain one or two sentences. Aside from the lack of actual services, I did find one client comment that praised the support staff’s helpfulness. My own experience did not reflect this as I did not receive any response at all from a phone call and several emails. Here’s what Cube offers in terms of support and contact:
- Email – You can contact Cube support by email at [email protected]
- Live Chat – Cube has a Live Chat option on their website homepage that is sometimes active when their staff is available.
- Support Center – Once you create an account with Cube, you’ll be able to access the back end dashboard which has a link to the Cube Support Center.
- Facebook – Check out the Cube Facebook.
- Twitter – Here’s the Cube Twitter feed.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
Because Cube has only been available for a few months there is very little feedback from clients. The only negative comment on iTunes mentioned running into several bugs and included the comment, “Not ready for primetime. Looks promising, but has a long way to go.” As far as I’m concerned, that just about sums Cube up at this point in time. See below for my primary concern.
- Underdeveloped – The bottom line is Cube just isn’t quite there yet. It’s a skeleton of a POS. The lack of ability to import and export data files (including customer contact info and accounting reports) is a huge issue, as is the absence of an inventory function that tracks quantity in stock. The back end interface is not user intuitive, there is no way to channel customer data into marketing options, and the product management options are basic. Plus, while Cube has some options for restaurant industry businesses, it doesn’t have enough features to really support anything beyond a very basic setup like a food truck or small cafe. This is a bit confusing given the energy that must have gone into creating the Kitchen Display System mentioned above.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
Cube also has one positive review on iTunes. The client described the app as “smooth” and praised the customer service as great and responsive. Here’s what Cube has working in its favor:
- Competitive rates – Cube Pay Per Swipe plan offers a lower credit card processing rate than big-time competitors Square and Intuit. This is definitely a count in its favor, especially for small businesses that are trying to setup a point of sale with as little overhead as possible.
- Good support – The staff at Cube seems to go out of their way (most of the time) to offer solutions and provide friendly, attentive support.
Overall, I can’t really recommend Cube as a solid POS software–yet. I’d like to re-visit it again a little further down the road if (and when) current gaps are filled and competitive features are added. I think Cube has a lot of potential still in the process of being realized. As it stands right now, there are other POS systems that are better developed and offer more features for a similar (or slightly higher) price. Personally I’d choose to invest in a more mature product rather than take the risk on a product that is still undergoing growing pains.
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