Last week I had the chance to try out Square myself and here's what I thought about it and to be entirely truthful me trying to make a case to Square to give me one to take donations for my climb. For now, you can donate here.
First off, what is Square?
Square is a mobile payment system aimed towards individuals and single employee businesses. The company was founded by Twitter co-founder and Chairman, Jack Dorsey. The two parts of the system are the credit card reader dongle and program. Together they give anyone the ability to take payments through a swipe of a credit card.
The device itself:
The device is actually very cool to use it is about the size of a quarter and in the shape of a smashed cube with a audio jack. It is powered through each swipe which is really neat. They are planning on giving it away to everyone and making money off the transaction cost. I have heard some complaints about the device not being durable and flimsy when swiping, but I have not experienced this firsthand.
Update (2/18/10 10:34pm): I just heard that 3.5% is only if you manually input the card info, if you swipe it, is 2.9% but that is hearsay until I see some proof.
Update (2/18/10 8:42pm): Square is charging 3.5% and no flat fee. Here's some proof.
Square is still in beta so they have not definitively decided on the transaction cost but this is what I've heard (take this with a grain of salt.) The transaction cost is 50 cents per transaction plus 3% of the total. I talked to a Square representative at Macworld and was told that they decided to drop the 50 cent transaction fee and now it's just 3%. It's still in beta so it's too early to say. But if there is a flat transaction fee of say 50 cents and a percentage fee I'd rather just pay with cash or Paypal. With just a 3% fee it would be a welcome alternative and is competitive with Paypal and Google Checkout. Also, they plan to donate one penny of each transaction to the charity of your choice.
Square is a paperless company so they give you the option of emailing or SMS-ing your receipt and also allow you to search for it on their site. Here's what it looks like.
So far I've had a really good experience with the device, but I have not gotten the chance to extensively test it. When using the system it reminds me of the iPod/iTunes system everything works together and it's all very intuitive. I can't wait to get my hands on the device for a real test taking donations and payments, so I'll reserve my full judgment till then, but it seems like a great system. The only thing I worry about is the 50 cent transaction fee. If that is what they decide to do it would really cut into the margin. Since a $3.50 cup of coffee minus transaction fees (0.50+3.50(0.03)=61.5 cents) is $2.88 (rounded down). That's 17.5%!! Not even taking into the account how much it costs to make that cup of joe.
Update (2/18/10 8:45pm) Heres a screen shot of the merchant online view. Courtesy of Spencer Schoeben
The other day I was on Skype chatting with a friend of mine, Dale, and we got to talking about what we wanted to do with our lives and I think the conversation went something like this:
Dale: What do you want to do before you die?
Me: Backpack around Europe for a month or Asia or both.
Dale: Start a National Library Foundation.
(we then went for another 2 hours resulting in a list 60 items long which can be seen here)
I decided that I wanted to write a bit more about my list of things and make it more my own, after all the list that we made was half Dale's.
So here's my list:
- Backpack on each continent except Antarctica for a period of time
- Learn to think in another language. Not only speak it, but think in it.
- Write a love song. Pour my heart out into words and hopefully some music Like in that episode of This American Life in which Phil Collins helps Starlee Kine write a break-up song.
- Fall in Love and be loved in return. What can I say? I'm basically a hopeless romantic. Even though more than half of Americans have been divorced I still believe in finding true love.
- Learn to code - Build an app and deploy it.
- Write and produce a play. I've been involved in a bunch of plays and helped write some, but have never really written and produced one of my own.
- Reform education. Growing up in California public school system I've seen how messed up it can be. I believe that it can be fixed and part of that is giving each child an individualized education plan and really teaching them to learn from the world around them.
- Being a mentor. Without all the amazing people in my life I would probably be homeless and begging for quarters. Everyone needs to have a mentor to guide them in life. I want to return that favor. I don't think I'm qualified to at this point and I'm not an expert in anything, but I'm someone who loves to just sit down for a cup of tea or chocolates (you should get this reference if you've see Good Will Hunting, and if you don't you should watch it.) and just talk about anything, if you ever need advice I'd love to help.
- Learn to fly an airplane. I'm a sailor and I love the freedom of getting in a boat and having no boundaries. I'd love to experience that in the air.
- Start a chocolate company that makes only dark chocolate. Yeah. I don't understand milk or white chocolate. White chocolate isn't even cocoa.
- Free 4G for the world. Communication should be free.
- Write a children's book. Change lives. The world needs idealists who never stop believing. If you don't dream, you'll never succeed.
- Be a guest on Fresh Air and Talk of the Nation. I listen to these two programs almost religiously every day. Terry Gross is probably tied as best interviewer with Ira Glass and since I don't think I'd ever be on This American Life, I want to be on Fresh Air. I want to be on Talk of the Nation because everyone who gets on is an expert on a certain subject and I want to be the authority on something.
- 2024 Leung Stephens. I should start fund raising now.
- Skydive, Paraglide, Windsurf. I want to try everything once.
- Go to culinary school. I've always loved cooking and I think it's something that I can be good at. It's an art and since I'm not a great writer or visual artist, I want to pour my soul into something that others can appreciate by eating. Plus I love eating and want to learn to made all those fabulous things no matter how unhealthy.
- Start a news media outlet that ousts Fox News as the top news source in America. Why does this even need to happen? Fox news should not be considered news no matter what political lean and I don't consider Keith Olbermann news either.
- Reform California budget. How can a state be a world leader when it also owes the most money?
- Bail out the New York Times. The Times is part of America, it has played many a role in shaping our country and is something that if let die would be a great detriment to society. It continues to uphold journalistic excellence sending reporters all over the world to do real reporting, not sensationalism news.
- Save a life. Not save someone from drowning, but finding someone in a dark place of depression or drug addiction and helping them get out of that hole. Sometimes people need a helping hand. I've definitely been overwhelmed at times in my life and felt that the world was collapsing on me, but I have always had amazing friends who have helped me. I want to do the same.
- Win Nobel Prize. Most likely peace, but who knows. I'd like to be beyond recognition, but I think receiving a prize would be a great honor and help me continue changing the world.
- Compete in the Olympics or America's Cup. I love sailing and I'd love to work hard enough at it that I was good enough to compete on the world stage.
- See Aurora Borealis from Arctic Circle. That would just be amazing.
- Sail around the world for a few years. Stop off at ports all over the world picking up friends and dropping them off along the way, just have an amazing time and expanding my world view. Visiting as many people as I can and changing the world. I want to sail along the coast of Chile, visit the Galapagos, New Zealand, Philippines, just everywhere that has a coast.
- Live homeless for a month. Something to stay humble.
- Build a school. This one goes hand in hand with number 7, it's the first step. I want to give kids an education of an expensive prep school regardless of their income, having independent learning plans for each student, shaping them into the leaders of tomorrow. Giving them all the resources that they need. You can't move an entire mountain, but you can move a stone and if you move enough stones you can really change the world.
- Build a full-size tree house or network of rooms in trees. This is the child inside me talking, I want to live amongst the trees and live in the trees. I want to be able to see the stars at night without the light pollution of the city.
- Photography published in National Geographic. Learn to take photos that change the world and share it with the world.
- Visit the Himalayas. I don't need to climb Everest, but I'd love to visit. It's supposed to be really beautiful.
- Eliminate age as a barrier. I don't believe that age is something that should hold you back. I believe youth have just as big a voice if not bigger than any other demographic. I'm working on a project to achieve this. I want people to stop looking down to youth. I don't believe age and maturity have anything to do with each other and there are plenty of 30 somethings or older people who don't act any more mature than a five year old.
- Reform college admissions process. GPA really shouldn't be that big of a thing and people have no business applying to 18 schools like I am. Applying to college should be an enjoyable process for schools to really find people who would love going to their school not people who apply to them from a brochure.
- Put College Board out of business. They claim to be a non-profit, but charge $70 for SATs, $110 per AP and all kinds of other fees to send scores, scholarship profiles, and everything else they can charge for. It has seriously got to end. They make more money than most for profit businesses.
That's my list as of now. I'm sure it'll keep on adding to it till the day I die, but if you want to help or join me in any of these I'd love to work with you. Together we can change the world.
One of the coolest booths at Macworld was Ten One Design. Two of their products are Pogo Sketch and Autograph. Pogo Sketch is a stylus that works on capacitive touch screens. It can control the cursor and do what your finger would typically do. It can be used to documents with the Autograph application also sold by Ten One Design
The Pogo Sketch
It's probably no more than a stick with a piece of foam attached to it, but a pencil is just a piece of wood with a piece of lead in it. It's a super simple concept, but works brilliantly. It works on: Zune HD; Motorola Droid; iPod Touch; iPhone 3G(S); Macbook (Air and Pro included); and Blackberry Storm. It's available now for $14.95 for silver and $11.96 for hot pink.
Autograph is a program that makes your touch pad a signing surface. It works great. You can change the writing thickness, output format - .png or .pdf and you can change the color. It doesn't do much but for the price of $6.95, it doesn't really need to.
All in all I ended up buying both of them and using them together. I paid $16.95 for both because of a show special, but I would buy them for $25. That being said, I have heard some critiques about the stylus namely the fact that it can wear out easily. I have not had that happen yet so I don't know, but if it does, I'll be sure to update this review. I think they are both great products and serve their purpose quite well. I got to use the pen on Daniel Brusilovsky's Square and it worked great. Using autograph has solved the problem of me signing electronic documents and is a cheap solution compared to the cost of a Bamboo writing pad. It doesn't have all the functionality, but who cares for less than a sixth of the price.
Disclaimer: I have not been influenced in any way shape or form by Ten One Design or any related companies. The opinions stated here are purely my own. Facts cited are found from the Ten One Design website and are true as far as I know at the publishing of this post.
1:00pm:Lights are going down. Word is that there will be no iPad here. We'll see soon enough.
1:03pm: Apparently whoever got a greeen beach ball gets a free iPad.
1:05pm: Jason Snell is on stage with Dan Morenstien, Ted Landow, Ryan Block, and Andy Ihnatko
1:08pm: Everyone has spent at least 20 minutes with the iPad. They are talking about the upside and downside of a 4:3 display.
1:09pm: Andy's first impression is the supurb build quality.
1:10pm: They are making fun of the cardboard cutouts. "they are not event eInk, just Ink."
1:11pm: Bezel should not be a problem according to Jason, Ryan says doesn't think that a bezel is important. Andy says that we should all get some 3M gripper tape to hold on to the pad.
1:13pm: Bezel is not noticeable after the first few uses.
1:15pm: They are discussing the closed nature of the iPad store. Ted is using the example of him using a hypothetical toaster oven and being required to use only buy things from Cuisinart store that work with the toaster, and everything that it's supposed to do works really well, but it doesn't allow the use of toasting anything else, but toast. That toast is the best toast ever and the toaster looks great, but it doesn't do poptarts or anything else. He keeps the toaster.
1:21pm: Andy just compared Steve Jobs to Dr. Doom. "Welcome to this week in Fantastic Four" - Jason
1:24pm: Dan is making the point of having a switch for unapproved apps to work on the i-devices. Allowing all apps, but not supporting anything that isn't from the App Store. Allowing people the option of using the open store, but when the go into the store and say it doesn't work, they flip the switch and all the non-app store apps break. Andy agrees.
1:27pm: Ted - "Even Steve [Jobs] couldn't think of everything the iPhone does today."
1;29pm: Dan - The iPad should be something that everyone uses different.
1:30pm: Andy brings up the fact that at Apple events the furniture is set to a specific hight, chairs are made at an angle so that you get a certain view of the device and Steve. Jason adds that at the iPad event the platforms that the iPad was on high enough that you couldn't look down and type. Also that an Apple employee was watching each of the iPads and if that iPad disappeared so would the employee, permanently.
1:33pm: Dan brings up the fact that the books aspect still isn't ideal because you still can't lend or give books away. We still go to libraries a lot to get books.
1:35pm: Andy brings up EPub, the technology that is in the iPad for books, is being used now by publishers for libraries and that you can lend a book out and set them to expire in seven days when that license reverts back to the library.
1:38pm: The iPad having a centralized store for books is great because right off the bat you can get a book. Today, we need to download all different apps Kindle, other e reader programs. Of course there will still be companies like the New York Times that spend $100,000 to build an app, but most companies can just sell their books on the store. What will periodicals do - Apple can really change the way we read magazines on electronic devices.
1:42pm: The iBook isn't going to be the biggest delivery device for periodicals or comics, it will be built on WebKit - Andy.
1:44pm: Jason makes the point that people are not going to want to do a separate app for each periodical and publishers won't have the resources to do. Right now the Kindle takes an XML feed and displays it without a custom app.
1:47pm: Ryan "I really don't want to read a book on a iPad. All the things that make the iPad great, the vibrant, bright screen make it hard to read for a long time."
1:49pm: Ted "$500 is not a magical price point, there will be cheaper models"
1:50pm: Dan "There will still be people who buy the Kindle and everything else." - The iPad isn't going to destroy the other markets.
1:51pm: Jason "I say no when Amazon wants to open up the Kindle API. It really good as an eReader and it doesn't need to do anymore."
1;53pm: Last ten minutes - Talking about the future.
1:54pm: Dan - In ten years, kids will laugh at us who grew up with the keyboard and mouse. They will naturally just pick up a device and use the touch gestures.
1:55pm: Jason "Is there a class of laptop that people just buy because they can't do email on a touch device?"
1:57pm: Consensus - Yes, the iPad can serve as a focal remote control that you just pick up around the house to do simple tasks, control the thermostat, lights, media, email, just lying around the house. The iPad is launching with the App Store and is based around it. The iPhone didn't get the App Store until a year after being released.
1:58pm: Andy brings up the Microsoft tablet, that they are basically desktop computers with the finger replacing the mouse and that's why it's never been successful. Starwars wasn't the first science fiction movie, but it was the first to really put everything together and hit it out of the ball park. The iPad will bing the kind of credibility of tablets and everyone will buy one in 2011.
2:02pm: Jason - What is your biggest unanswered question?
Ted: 4.0 OS for iPad, Printing.
Dan: Can I used it as a phone. (laugh) about about a camera? iPhone OS 4.0 what will make it really look different from the iPhone OS wise.
Ryan: It feels empty UI wise, how will it look more complete. Multitasking. It's gotta happen eventually how will they do it?
Andy: How easy will it be to get stuff on the iBook Store? Will it be like the App Store or the iTunes Store? If they make it open and easy that unless you specifically break a rule, it will be great if not, well then it's going to be just a few well funded guys.
2:07pm: Thanks everyone for reading, No Q and A.
Just got here at Macworld. Thought I'd throw up a quick post.
Update (11:04pm February 11, 2010): The vibe this year is very different from years past. All fallout from Apple dropping out and Microsoft having one of the biggest booths; what has happened to the world? This year there was just one expo hall versus two during the last few years. Many big manufacturers and companies were missing and even many vendors and booksellers were absent. My first impression was the conference was dead, but after walking around I realized that although it isn't 20% of what it used to be, there is still a place that it can carve out for itself as a place for consumers to interact with iphone and apple developers. That being said, I did find some interesting stuff that I'll write up later.
Update (3:46pm February 12, 2010): I've decided to write individual posts for each of the products that I really liked so check them out.