Square claims it can process mobile payments in four seconds

Square is rolling out updates to its mobile payment apps for the iPhone and iPad that it claims means it can now process transactions in as little as four seconds.The firm now no longer requires a signature for transactions amounting to less than USD25m and has reduced the number of steps before final payment goes through. The move streamlines the payment process in a bid to win over more customers. Square is also officially launching Card Case, a consumer app which lets users set up virtual tabs with merchants and pay for items using their phone. Square continues to gain ground in the nascent mobile payments market, claiming to process USD4m worth of mobile payments per day and recently attracting a valuation of USD1bn following its latest funding round.

Until now, Square has focused on merchants and vendors, but the new Card Case app allows consumers to make payments in shops and restaurants without using their credit card, and simply by providing their name. Consumers making multiple purchases at merchants registered with Square can create a tab with them using the app. When tallying up the bill, merchants can then select a customer’s name on their own Square device in order to access their payment details. Receipts are then automatically sent via email. Shoppers can also access further information about the merchant via the app, such as menus, product details, inventory, coupons and purchase history as well as maps and store locators. Currently available in only a handful of cities, including New York and San Francisco, Square is expected to roll out the service to other cities in the next few months.

Square is showing signs of closing the gap on market leader PayPal, which is now processing some USD10m worth of payments a day, but faces growing competition as more firms jockey for a slice of what is expected to become a multi-billion dollar market. With global mobile payment users expected to soar 38.2% year on year to surpass 141m in 2011, tech firms are scrambling to bring their own products to market.

Despite the hype surrounding near field communications (NFC) technology and “wave and pay” systems, which are expected to drive the mobile payments market, Square’s growth shows that there is space in the market for different payment options. The firm has forged its own path with a plug-in card reader, now claiming to have shipped more than 500,000 devices as adoption of the technology accelerates.

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