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Square kills the need for NFC with virtual "tabs" and Card Case

Square CEO Jack Dorsey certainly had the right idea in having his presentation broadcast as part of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week. In an announcement made this afternoon, Dorsey essentially announced a sea change in the way that people can make purchases at local businesses.

To start with, the company has announced a way to eliminate the need for Near Field Communications (NFC) capability in smartphones. By using an iPad or iPhone and the Square app as a cash register, and then providing a way for customers to set up a tab at a local business, those customers can pay for products or services in the future simply by giving the store or restaurant their name. At that point, the person operating the Square register can verify the sale by seeing a picture of the person and noting that they've done business with the company before, and then make the transaction. A receipt is emailed or texted to the customer, and the credit card transaction takes place behind the scenes.

A customer would have to make one credit card transaction at that business, and then receive a text message receipt that gives them access to Square's new Card Case -- part of the Square app. In the Card Case are virtual credit cards for each business. The cards show the location of and information about the business, a full menu (and I assume a list of products for companies that aren't restaurants) and other info.

At this point, Square only works in the USA, and Card Case is only set up at 50 businesses in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, St. Louis and Washington D.C. Local businesses that are interested in accepting tabs through Square can sign up now.

We were expecting Square to make some sort of announcement linking the company to Apple, based on a tweet sent out by Dorsey over the weekend. That didn't happen, but perhaps we'll see the ability to set up a tab at your local Apple Store coming in the near future.

In other news, the Square app was updated to version 2.0 today, presumably to add the Card Case functionality. For merchants, Square has also added "shelves" and production to the iPad app, making it easier to browse products and check out customers.

The full press release of the Square announcement can be read below.

Show full PR text
Square obsoletes cash registers and credit card terminals with new iPad, iPhone, and Android apps
Transforms everyday transactions between buyers and sellers
SAN FRANCISCO – May 23, 2011 – Square, the company revolutionizing everyday transactions between buyers and sellers, today announced new features for its iPad point of sale solution. The new, free Square Register app for iPad streamlines checkout, tracks sales, and makes it easy for businesses to communicate with customers on their mobile phones. The company also introduced Card Case, which enables iPhone and Android users to explore local businesses; view menus; track and store digital receipts; and open digital tabs to make instant, effortless purchases – all on their phones.
"Cash registers and credit card terminals are relics of an expensive, complicated, and impersonal commercial transaction system," said Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square. "With Register and Card Case, weʼre transforming everyday transactions between buyers and sellers into something special," said Dorsey.
"We revolutionized the payment industry with the Square card reader which makes it possible for anyone to accept credit cards on their phone," said Dorsey. "Now, with Square Register, weʼre reinventing point of sale with a beautiful, intuitive iPad app. Card Case goes beyond point of sale to transform the entire buyer-seller relationship."
Square Register
Square Register replaces the complicated and expensive cash registers that clutter store counters with a beautiful, full featured, touch-enabled point of sale and checkout solution. Using Register, businesses can easily manage the items they sell, check daily transactions, update pricing, automate checkout, generate digital receipts, and maintain virtual storefronts so customers can discover and explore new offerings when theyʼre in the neighborhood. New features introduced with Register include:
Directory
Using the location-based Directory feature, sellers can be discovered by customers in their neighborhood. Consumers can explore nearby shops, cafes, and restaurants before they ever set foot in the store.
Menus
The new Menus feature, much like a digital sandwich board, enables local shops and restaurants to advertise current menus, prices, daily specials, and the most popular trending items right on customersʼ phones. Updates are pushed instantly, giving businesses a powerful, cost effective way to build awareness and communicate with customers.
Tabs
Similar to one-click purchases made popular by online retailers, Tabs make payments instant and effortless in the real world. Once a customer opens a tab on their phone, sellers can verify a customerʼs identity with a stored profile and photo on Square Register and approve their purchase with just one touch. Tabs eliminate the need for cash or credit cards at checkout, enabling customers to leave their wallets at home.
Receipts
With Square Register, sellers can automatically generate and send digital receipts to customers, enabling them to track and store their purchase history right on their phone. This eliminates the need for costly, wasteful paper receipts.
Card Case
Card Case, a feature of the Square app for iPhone and Android, enables customers to access Directory and Menus, and open Tabs at their favorite merchants, making purchasing instant and effortless. Card Case can be activated through a text message invitation from Square after making a credit card purchase at a participating merchant.
Availability
The Square Register app for iPad is available for free beginning today in the App Store. Businesses interested in offering Card Case can apply online at squareup.com/cardcase. Consumers can activate Card Case at one of the 50 currently authorized Square merchants in Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Card Case for Android phones will be coming soon.
About Square
Square has revolutionized millions of everyday transactions between buyers and sellers with its free card reader for mobile devices. Square Register and Card Case are transforming the relationship between buyers and sellers. Founded in 2009, and headquartered in San Francisco, Square is currently available in the U.S. More information is available at squareup.com.
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