is a new US-based payment option for the iPhone, and soon other mobile devices. Square is a square-ish mag-stripe reader that converts the magnetic information into sound and feeds this into the audio-in/headset socket of the iPhone. On-board software converts this to the card details, and the cardholder can then 'sign' the iPhone's screen. Security is enhanced by behing able to photograph the purchaser and the paperwork aspects of the receipts is completed electronically.
The service is US-only at present and has made a splash in that it brings a slew of small and micro-businesses into m-commerce without setup fees, delays or high costs. Indeed, the device is available free of charge and transactions cost $1.
Savvy aspects of the Square package include in-built loyalty and reward programmes as well as the ability to become an outbound payment mechanism for the small business.
There are many reasons that Square mightn't work in Europe (it's mag-stripe rather than chip-n-pin is the first one) but they're all irrelevant to the power of this disruptive idea - bringing a myriad additional businesses into the sphere of M-Retailing and eCommerce.
We can imagine a mobile merchant PayPal incorporating loyalty and rewards programmes, and the dumb wireless payment terminals connecting evermore with customer data and generic devices.
Further commentary on Square can be see from Christine Bardwell of Ovum (via our friends at Retail Technology
) or in summary on Gizmodo