Whether you run a small business or are self-employed, being able to take a credit card as a form of payment is usually a necessity, as many of us rarely carry cash anymore and prefer the level of security that using plastic brings.
IZettle is a mobile payment service that combines an iOS app and credit card reader into a complete Point of Sale system. Using iZettle, anyone can set up an iPhone to take payments for any goods and services quickly and easily. Whilst this sounds like an almost perfect solution, can you really replace your checkout counter with just your iPhone?
Over in the USA and Canada, Square has been offering their own card readers since 2009 but, despite its popularity, it has remained very much confined to just the one continent. iZettle has since started their own service in a number of European countries, as well as Mexico, to provide a way of taking credit card payments. At the time of this writing, iZettle is available in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Spain and Sweden.
If you’ve ever been to an Apple Store in the last few years, you’ll likely have noticed that most of the Apple Specialists are always carrying an iOS device wrapped in a card reader. These EasyPay devices revolutionised how the company takes payment and most stores have even done away with dedicated checkout desks completely. Instead of dragging a customer across your store to pay, you can simply stand with them and take payment, making their experience much easier.
This is exactly how iZettle works with your iPhone or iPod touch, providing a means to do away with the traditional checkout counter.
iZettle doesn’t charge any recurring fees, instead taking a small percentage of each transaction. You can find out more at iZettle’s Pricing page.
Depending on your region and availability, you can purchase either a Chip & Signature reader, which includes the ability to swipe a credit card’s magnetic stripe, or a Bluetooth Chip and PIN card reader.
The card reader I tested was their newer Chip & Signature reader that includes both a mechanism to access the chip on a credit card as well as a way to translate the magnetic stripe. The device plugs into the headphone socket of the iPhone and is instantly detected by the software. The Chip & Signature reader, although light, is rather large so it isn’t too difficult to accidentally catch it when moving around.
IZettle’s Chip & PIN card reader doesn’t connect via the headphone socket, instead it communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth to your iPhone. Keeping the card reader from needing to be physically connected has the benefit of keeping your iPhone in your hands whilst the customer pays using the Chip & PIN terminal. The Chip & PIN reader is rechargeable via Micro USB whilst the Chip & Signature reader relies upon a single AAA battery. It uses far less power so will last longer but you’ll occasionally need to replace the battery.
The cost of the Chip & Signature reader is £20 whilst the Chip & PIN device is £99. That’s certainly a big jump in price, but as the device is Bluetooth and includes an LCD display and keypad, it’s more expensive to manufacture.
No matter which card reader you’re considering, the cost is far cheaper than a dedicated card terminal from a bank. Most card terminal systems you see in stores cost around £20-£30 per month to rent in addition to any transaction fees and likely requires its own dedicated phone line, adding another £15-£20 per month.
The benefit of the iPhone over this is that it doesn’t just take advantage of your Wi-Fi but if you’re someone on the move, then you can easily rely upon your iPhone’s data connection instead. But before you decide to buy the cheaper Chip & Signature reader, be aware that due to various banking restrictions, you’re limited to the total daily transaction amount when using the Chip & Signature reader. Additionally, Chip & PIN (where available) is much simpler to process.
The iPhone app is really well designed and even takes on is deliberately laid out to be as simple as possible. Once launched, the app greets you with the Product Library, where you keep your frequently sold items.
The Product Library
As the app is tied to your iZettle account, any products you add are automatically synced so if you use multiple iOS devices, they’ll all have the correct product library.
Adding products is all too easy, just tap the New Product button and start adding it. You can name your product, add variables such as size or colour and even take a photo or add one from your Photo Library.
The Product Library doesn’t have any form of stock or inventory management which isn’t an issue for businesses like coffee shops. For retail environments, you’ll need to make sure you physically have the stock before you sell it.
Photos are perhaps the best part of the Product Library as not only do they help you easily find a product but they’re also included with the receipt the customer receives via email, adding a level of detail that you just don’t currently get from traditional checkout systems.
Tapping on a product will automatically add it to the Payments section, though should your product have any variables (again, such as size or colour) then a pop-up menu will appear to prompt you for the one you’d like to add.
To view what is currently within the Payments section, simply tap the running total that’s displayed at the top of the app and it will then slide along. You can add further products to the Payments area by tapping Back or alter the quantities of items already within this section.
For those working in thrift or antique stores, the product library may not be useful since many products will be one-offs. You can add manual items using the dedicated option near the running total at the bottom of the column and can even add product details and a photo. Additionally, discounts can be specified in either a percentage or a fixed amount.
Tapping Charge, located at the top-right of the Payments section, begins the checkout process. iZettle can not only take card payments from most major providers but it can also handle cash payments as well. For cash payments, it is expected you have a separate cash drawer and, whilst iZettle doesn’t charge you, the transaction will still be stored within your iZettle account.
Because iZettle requires a separate card reader, there may be times you have forgotten it. Although you’re charged a higher costs and there are strict limits on maximum transaction amounts, you can take a manual payment by entering the card details yourself.
Since the jewel in iZettle’s crown is the card reader, you simply connect it to your iPhone (either via the headphone jack or Bluetooth) whilst using the app and when you hit the Charge button, you’re prompted to enter or swipe the card. Chip & PIN customers will receive a prompt to enter their PIN number whilst Chip & Signature customers will be asked to sign on the iPhone’s screen. After that, you simply email a receipt to the customer which, thanks to iOS’ location services, includes all the details of the product and a map preview showing the customer exactly where they were when they made their purchase.
Receipts can even be printed and you’re not stuck with using traditional card printers, either. You can use any AirPrint-compatible printer to provide a receipt to the customer.
Your transaction history is available from within the app’s Account options, with the option to search for transactions by different criteria as well as the ability to configure any dedicated receipt printers. Should you experience any problems, you can easily access the FAQ and contact support.
At the beginning of this review, I asked if you could you really replace your checkout counter with an iPhone. The answer to that is a resounding “yes.” IZettle focuses on two main areas: ease of use and the customer experience.
Setting up the app and adding products is as easy as taking a picture and being able to quickly take most forms of payment from your iPhone within seconds removes the need for a dedicated card terminal and even checkout desk. The app even includes native support for certain cash drawers and dedicated receipt printers so if you’d like to run an entire Point of Sale system from an iPhone, you can.
Furthermore, the customer’s experience when using iZettle is fantastic. Email receipts mean customers never have to worry about keeping a receipt and the information they’re provided with is exceptional, with location info and product photo. Customers can even share their purchase on Facebook directly from the email which can be a great way to attract new business.
For any small business that is looking to take payments with an iOS device, or even replace their existing Point of Sale system, iZettle is a fantastic way to do this. It’s far cheaper than a dedicated card terminal and far more versatile.