Why do iPad Till Systems use iPads?
There are currently 1.4 billion (and counting) active Apple devices in the world. That’s 1.4 billion devices running iOS. You don’t need to dig deep into the data to realise that Apple is a strong ecosystem, and a universally desirable platform. All of us in the office use iPhones.
But why do modern tills use iPads?
iPads: the benefits of agnostic hardware
One reason that the iPad has become the centre of the modern till is that it’s agnostic hardware.
If a device is software-agnostic, it can be used with multiple different software apps. So, should you wish to switch your EPOS software – from Vend to Lightspeed, for example – you won’t need to replace your iPad, because it will still work with your new system. iPad till systems therefore have the potential to save you the cost of repurchasing hardware. This means that lots of merchants prefer iPad till systems because they have a lower sunk cost if you decide to change systems.
(You may need to switch some parts of your hardware, such as your printer, depending on its compatibility. Also, this excludes certain payment processors, which require specific card readers.)
It also means that a new software company only needs to be good at one thing – software – and they don’t need to develop competency at building hardware. The saying in technology goes, “hardware is hard” – it’s easier and cheaper to try lots of new things with software, whereas in hardware, you have to build it.
In turn, that means there are lower barriers to entry for software companies using iPad till systems than for those creating a whole till. The trade off is that you have to be more competitive to retain your customers because it’s easier for merchants to leave. Taken together, those two facts mean that there’s a very healthy and competitive software market which use iPads for the main screen of their tills.
In contrast, proprietary hardware, or “fixed till” till systems, can only run its native software. So EPOS Now uses proprietary hardware which belongs to EPOS Now. This is the same with NCR, or ICR Touch, or any number of “old school” EPOS systems. You’d have to spend £1000s on hardware if you wanted to change till software if you used one of these. This weaponises the sunk cost fallacy – of course you’re going to continue paying them to use the software, you’ve spent £1000 on the hardware!
Why iPad tills: Apple & Network Effects
That explains why tablets, but why are they Apple tablets?
This is where we bring in a little theory – Apple has benefitted from something called a “network effect.”
In brief, a network effect is a virtuous circle, whereby a system or service increases in value as more users join it. Facebook is only so valuable because of the number of people on it. Every new user adds value to the platform and motivates their friends to sign up. VISA is valuable because lots of people accept payments via VISA – so its popularity reinforces its status as a dominant card network.
How does this apply to Apple? Well, Apple benefits from a highly developed “developer ecosystem”.
To explain what this means, an example is the Windows phone. We know now that the two dominant phone and tablet operating systems are Android and Apple. But that wasn’t obvious in 2006 when different companies began to vye for a position in the market. Windows came a little late – but built a great phone at a reasonable price.
Still, there was a big downside to a Windows phone – there weren’t very many apps. Because Apple was the dominant smartphone, lots of apps got written for Apple and none were written for Windows. In turn, lots of people chose Apple phones. In turn, app developers would continue to build apps for Apple and not Windows. That’s the network effect.
What’s important here is the idea that because of that huge user base, Apple needs and attracts lots of companies working on iOS applications. When Steve Jobs and Apple introduced tablet computing to the public, there was a flurry of startups eager to develop their software and capitalize on the iPad’s power and affordability to the small business market. And Apple uses their existing user base to their advantage, appealing to external developers. Third party apps, such as EPOS software brands, are far more likely to be on Apple’s platform simply by virtue of there being more users. After the iPhone, the iPad has been the second-largest driver bringing new users into the Apple ecosystem (source: Above Avalon). Owning this feedback loop between developers and users creates a ‘moat’ in which they essentially seal themselves off from competitors.
Having an iPad till system means you’ll never be restricted in terms of point-of-sale apps, as developers will be keen to bring out their products and services to iOS users first. There is the technical assurance that developers will be continually refining their apps too. Thanks to how common Apple products are, it’ll be easy for you to get screen replacements and technical support too.
The old and new ways of doing EPOS, in brief
Today’s iPad till systems differ from these older fixed till systems not just in their portability, but in their technology too; they’re a lot easier to set up and also let you work with a huge market of SaaS companies. SaaS means you’re billed monthly or annually rather than per upgrade. We recommend this because SaaS products are typically . Also nearly all the open software – which can offer free integrations – is also SaaS (Why does StoreKit not offer fixed till systems?).
Some people may not like paying SaaS, because they’d rather buy the system outright. However, the downside to buying outright is, when the software gets outdated, they will charge you for an update. And those software companies need to drive merchants to really badly need those upgrades – which they can do by withdrawing services supported by the older software, and not funding its upkeep. If the cost of jumping ship completely is too high, and their current software version is failing them, they’ll be sure to pay for an upgrade.
Although most iPad till system companies offer services which you pay for monthly, some have multi-year contracts. Before you sign a contract with any EPOS brand, read the contract in full and make sure you understand what terms you’re agreeing to.
This is a big plus, that isn’t just exclusive to iPads. iPad till systems tend to store your business data “in the cloud” (meaning your data goes out to a server overseas). This is both necessary – because the iPad doesn’t have much memory – and a good thing because cloud-based accounts are easier to manage and less glitchy.
We like the cloud because your EPOS system can be logged into from multiple iPads if you wished, and all of your data will be updated simultaneously. This does mean you need an internet connection all the time. If you’re worried about this, many systems have an offline mode and you can buy an internal server to run them out of. Alternatively you can use a hybrid system.
Mobile devices and iPad till systems can do something that traditional POS systems can’t. According to a study released by Intuit, over 80% of small businesses use an average of 1-6 web or mobile-based software applications. If a few of these apps, like your accounting software or ecommerce platform, can integrate with your iPad till system, it will help streamline day-to-day business operations. Some providers may charge you thousands for an integration – that’s why open software is preferable.
Android vs Apple
Windows, Apple, and Android, are the three OS companies which can credibly produce iPads. Of those, Windows is a smaller platform. Most of the smartphones throughout the world are Android, and a good number of the tablets.
There are a handful of differentiating factors between Apple and Android. Apple is a more controlled ecosystem. Apple approves each app individually, to ensure the worst bugs and scams are stamped out. Google Play, on the other hand, is an unsupervised open marketplace of apps. This is good for encouraging innovation.
Toast, a Boston-based restaurant management and point of sale system, was built on the Android operating system. But, according to Life Wired, app developers may feel less secure in working with Android than Apple because of rampant piracy. While it is possible to pirate apps for the iPad, it’s much easier on Android.
Despite Android owning a greater proportion of smartphone users worldwide, Apple’s dominance of the premium tablet and smartphone market means that people spend a lot more on Apple than Android apps. (The fact that Apple is premium also means that Silicon Valley use Apple – which shouldn’t matter, but often does.)
Finally, Apple’s interface is renowned for being user-friendly. If you handed an iPad to a customer in your shop to complete a sale, they’d more than likely be familiar with the set up. iPad touchscreens are intuitive and visually appealing – they look sleek. Any new employee who’s even once held an iPhone or any Apple product should be able to familiarise with the iPad till system quickly, cutting down on the time needed for training.
At the minute, we’d say iPads are generally a bit better and easier to use than Android Tablets, and there’s certainly more POS system apps available through them.
Types of iPad
Which type of iPad is best for your till system?
These are the iPads currently being manufactured by Apple (see below for obsolete iPad models and what to do with them).
We could go much more granular, but here I’m looking at three main criteria: connectivity, battery power and the hardware itself (CPU, RAM). iPads aren’t things that most people put down as their must-upgrade. They might buy one and stick with it. But the newer iPads might offer a few extras which can help small businesses run more efficiently. That being said, the latest model isn’t necessarily the best one to buy. Since all the devices look very alike, it’s important to know what you’re buying.
Option 1: iPad Mini 5
This was released March 2019.
This is the smallest tablet, at only 7.9 inches. This means you can use the Heckler Windfall for iPad Mini, and the Studio Proper P/O/S Swivel Stand. If you use the latter, you won’t be able to carry the iPad around. The Heckler Windfall has an optional pivot hole accessory so you can tack it down to the Windfall cash drawer if you’d like, otherwise it’s a slim stand that can be moved.
Connects to WiFi, and comes with a slot where you can fit a nano-SIM if you want a cellular data plan. Alternatively, you can use an eSIM (or a “digital SIM”, which does everything a SIM does but leaves the card behind). Like all the iPads here, it uses Bluetooth.
It lasts for up to 10 hours, so it could theoretically last for a full trading day but we’d recommend you charge it at some point.
This has something called “True Tone” display which means that the iPad adjusts to the lighting of the room – which could be good in low-light bar environments.
Who should choose this iPad?
If you’re a clothes shop and you’d like your sales assistants to carry the till system to the customer to finish a sale, and show off your range of products in person, the smaller iPad Mini may be an effective tool for you as it’s so portable.
If you’re looking for a powerful tablet; the iPad mini has “2.49 GHz Hexa-core CPU”, which means it’s very speedy and perfect for businesses with high through-put.
Option 2: iPad 9.7” (2018).
This is the sixth generation of iPad (it’s since been succeeded). iPad is generally considered the entry-level tablet within the iPad family.
This iPad is 9.7”, which is the discontinued size of iPad. We still sell them on the StoreKit site and numerous retailers will continue to stock them for some time, but if you want the latest model of iPad, you’ll be looking at the 10.2 which was launched in 2019 (see below). The key differences with the later model are: it will work with the Smart Keyboard and a larger screen size. The processing power is exactly the same as the newer model.
You’ll find there are two kinds of iPad 9.7” on the market. They differ based on their connectivity options: WiFi and Cellular + Wifi. (Also shown as WiFi + 4G). The just WiFI iPad is the cheapest one we sell on StoreKit at the moment. What’s the difference? The latter is more expensive, because it allows you to use the device on your cellular plan just as you would with your phone. This could be good for businesses where WiFi is intermittent. Both iPads offer the same design and features, apart from the SIM slot.
They both have a CPU of 2370 MHz and 2GB RAM, so it’s not quite as speedy as the iPad mini.
Its battery power is also up to 10 hours, but again, keep a charging cable handy.
Who should choose this iPad?
If you’re a small business just starting out in the iPad world, this is a great option. This iPad boasts a capacity that rivals the much pricier iPad Air. An iPad like this one can hold a catalogue or inventory of all your products, which you and your customers can browse easily.
Option 3: 10.2” (2019)
Again with battery that promises to last all day.
Again, powered by Apple’s “A10 Fusion Quad-core 2.34 GHz (2x Hurricane + 2x Zephyr)”, its performance is brilliant and from what I’ve read on comparison sites, is the best value iPad out there. It’s speedy. We’d recommend this option as it’s versatile and boasts strong connectivity and speed without the price tag of the iPad Pro. This also comes with a smart connector which you can hook up a keyboard to.
Option 4: iPad Pro (2018)
Finally, there’s the iPad Pro 12.9”. It’s the largest size of iPad and was even marketed to replace a laptop device. This comes with a huge price bump. In Autumn 2018, the iPad Pro introduced the world to the large 12.9-inch iPad display, and the newest iPad Pro has got rid of the Home Button in favour of Face ID – a facial recognition tool. That means you’ll log into your iPad Pro with your face, rather than with your fingerprints.
Again you can get this iPad either “just WiFi” or “WiFi + Cellular”. There are two SIM options in the cellular iPad Pro: a physical nano-SIM slot at the side of the device and an eSIM, or digital SIM.
The 2018 iPad Pro models continue to feature 10-hour battery life when using the internet or watching video. With cellular models, that drops down to nine hours when browsing the internet over LTE.
This means the latest iPad combines beautiful displays with a slimmer form factor. They also support a second generation Apple Pencil and include a USB-C port instead of the Lightning connector. This means, if you want to hook up your iPad Pro to your desktop, and your desktop only has USB A ports, you’ll need to get a USB-A to USB-C cable. But the Pro’s fancy extras might not be necessary if you’re using the iPad just for day-to-day EPOS operations, and it’s a hefty price to pay.
Who should choose this iPad?
Large retail and hospitality businesses and chains, if strong design functions and aesthetics are fundamental to your brand.
What kind of iPad stand do I need?
One of the most-spoken-about downsides to iPads is their durability. Reviews often point out how easy they are to bend and break. Dropping an iPad may be fatal for your device! This is why it’s important to kit out your store with the stand that keeps it in place on your countertop. At StoreKit, we offer a range of iPad secure stands, and there will be at least one that is specific to each of these iPad sizes (7.9”, 9.7”, 10.2” and 12.9”). For the 9.7” iPad, we only stock the Heckler Windfall tall stand (but StoreKit will soon be discontinuing this once stock runs out). If you aren’t sure which is the best stand for your store, ring us today and we can discuss the different options.
- iPad mini (original), iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4 (available at selected sellers).
- The iPad 5, iPad 4, The iPad 3, the iPad 2, the Original iPad
- The iPad Pro (first gen), The iPad Pro (second gen).
With these discontinued iPads, you can often get them at a discounted rate. If you own one and don’t know what to do with it, there are a few different ways of repurposing the device. There are apps that will let your computer treat your tablet like an extra monitor, either wirelessly via Wi-Fi or with a direct USB connection (which also helps with charging). Note that iOS and iPads seem to be better supported for external displays, but it’s still possible on Android—just not quite as good.
When picking an iPad, think carefully about what is most valuable to you and how much you are prepared to pay for those features. If you’re on a tight budget, you may be able to get what you need out of an EPOS system (say a card reader like Square) without investing in an iPad. Do a comparison on StoreKit’s website just to be sure. Whether you’re a one-man-band, or a large chain, our resources can filter the array of EPOS solutions out there so that you’re reaching for the system that’s suited for you.
Why should I go for an iPad till system?
The EPOS marketplace is constantly growing and their apps are becoming more robust by the minute. An iPad till system is by no means a stripped-down version of the PC or fixed till equivalent, and you can multi-task on your device efficiently. Those tasks could be anything from updating customer records to syncing your brick and mortar store with your online store, graphing monthly sales, and quickly searching your inventory for multiple sites. Many systems also offer a diverse wealth of integrations to help you customise your iPad till system to fit your specific needs. If you aren’t sure or have any questions, speak to an expert from StoreKit today for free – we stock both iOS and Android hardware so can be sure to tell you what we genuinely think.
Are iPads as “powerful” as fixed tills?
It’s often touted by fixed till system sales people that iPad till systems are less “powerful” than the fixed till systems. If we were to just look at the technical specifications of iPads vs fixed till, then yes, that would be true. “Power” in computing terms can be defined by the clock speed, which is measured in MHz or GHz, and the RAM (random access memory), measured in data space.
However, this doesn’t mean that iPad till systems perform worse than fixed tills. Why? Testing power needs a broader outlook. With Apple, you’ll still get high speeds even on low technical specs, because they build both the hardware and the software so it translates very efficiently. The latest iPad Pro rivals the power of most laptops.
In fact, with cloud-computing, the key functions – data retrieval, calculations, and general processing – are likely to take place on a server owned by a big tech company. That server is going to boast much higher technical specs than a standard commercial laptop, or the kind of hardware used in a fixed-till system. So the iPad is necessary for accessing a single platform, and you don’t need a very high spec for this.