How to Choose an Android POS System
The top performers in our review are Erply, the Gold Award winner; Clover, the Silver Award winner; and Verifone Cloud, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of Android point-of-sale systems.
Android point-of-sale (POS) systems are affordable, simple-to-use and cloud-based. This type of POS system is suitable for small businesses, including restaurants, retail stores and mobile businesses. Unlike cash registers of the past, today's POS systems are online, which make them current and capable of processing credit cards instantaneously.
In many cases, Android POS software may be compatible with the Android smartphones or tablets you already own. Some services offer Android OS tablets along with compatible peripherals such as tablet stands, EMV card readers, cash drawers, bar code scanners, scales and customer displays. These POS systems are quite comparable to iPad POS systems and often are cross-platform compatible, meaning the software may work with iOS and Mac OS X.
Most POS services require you to purchase Android devices, and they also charge a monthly fee for using the software and their online services. However, Square and PayPal do not charge you for their software; instead, they require you use their credit card processing service. The good news for new businesses using an Android POS is that startup costs are flexible from nearly zero upfront investment to just a few hundred dollars if you buy the required hardware outright.
The Three Components of Android POS: Hardware, Software & Payment Processing
All POS systems require three parts to be fully functional: hardware, software and payment processing. Here's more about each of those components:
Android POS Hardware
There is a wide range when it comes to Android POS hardware. It can be as simple as one smartphone or tablet to a multi-user, multi-location system. To process customers' payments you'll need – at a minimum – a credit card reader or payment terminal. If you need other accessories, cash drawers, barcode scanners, customer displays, scales, receipt printers, kitchen displays and menu displays, many of the companies on our lineup can help you. Another option is to contact a POS Hardware & Software company to see if they have the parts you are looking for.
POS Software for Android
Software is the part of the system you interact with: It creates your invoices, processes sales reports, tracks inventory and manages customer data. Most online software requires a monthly subscription fee to use the service. Often, the cash register apps for Android are free to download from Google Play, but they are not independently fully functional and require an accompanied paid account. Another thing to keep in mind: While the software can process cash sales, you'll still need a credit card processor for credit or debit card payments.
Credit Card Payment Processing
Credit card processors help you quickly process credit or debit card payments. They require a card reader, which connects to your Android device, or a separate credit card terminal. To protect your business from liability and being stuck with fraudulent charges, you'll need an EMV chip card reader. As of October 1, 2015, retailers who have EMV-compliant equipment are insulated from fraud losses. If you haven't made the shift to EMV-compliant POS equipment, you can continue processing sales transactions using a magnetic-stripe card reader, but you'll have to absorb losses from any fraudulent transactions that occur. To learn more about EMV compliance, see "Everything You Need to Know About EMV."
Depending on your sales volume and the rates you pay, payment processing can be one of the costlier elements of your POS system. PayPal and Square offer flat-rate pricing, which is slightly higher than other processors; they come with no-fuss, high approval rates and predictable, monthly costs. Other payment processors may offer lower rates but charge other fees so your monthly bill may vary from one month to the next. Be sure to read our credit card processing reviews to decipher the complexities of payment processing services.
The Best Android POS: What Does My Business Need?
Your business is unique, and not all Android POS systems include the same features. Some systems are more suited for mobile businesses while others have tools that make them better suited for retail stores or restaurants.
Here are a few common business scenarios to help you find a POS system that fits your business model:
Mobile businesses often provide simple services, such as consulting hours or selling limited items, such as farmers market produce, art fair ware, food-truck meals or concert merchandise. In these cases, mobile payment processing with a simple POS system capable of tracking basic inventory and customers is all you need. Square and PayPal are good choices for this type of business. Both offer flat-rate credit card processing and work well using either a smartphone or tablet. A receipt printer can be added, if needed, but many customers will likely be happy with an email or SMS receipt.
If you run a retail store, you'll need inventory tools that handle a variety of items and track vendors. You'll also benefit from customer-management features that track sales and assist with marketing efforts. If you have employees, you may also want to add employee time and sales-tracking abilities. Many systems also let you add additional hardware, such as a customer display, cash drawer, receipt printer and barcode scanner. If you sell by weight, integrated scales are also available. Groovv and AccuPOS provide retail versions.
Android POS options are especially well-suited for counter-serve restaurants with simple menus. Indeed, many Android POS options are designed for restaurants. Tablet options are good for counter-service type eateries such as coffee, sandwich or doughnut shops. Full-service restaurants can add in handheld devices for tableside ordering and payment processing. Kitchen printers, customer displays and integrated scales are often available as well. You may also want to consider adding inventory-management features. Clover, Verifone Cloud and Posandro all offer restaurant-specific features.
What We Tested, What Found
We scrutinized payment processing options, management tools, sales and customer management features, and help and support options to determine which Android POS services provide the best options for small businesses. We tested the interface of each system to determine how simple each one was and how well it performed routine tasks such as adding inventory, processing a sale and running reports. And while many POS solutions are scalable, so you can add multiple terminals and locations, we concentrated on the needs of small businesses.
Among the features you should compare if you're considering an Android POS system:
Most businesses nowadays need the ability to process credit cards, which isn't free and requires a dial-up or internet connection to complete the sale. We looked at which POS products require you to use their processor as well as ones that are compatible with a range of processors. The best Android POS systems provide payment flexibility, even letting you continue to use the credit card processor you may already be contracted with. We also looked for POS services that provide EMV chip card readers.
These tools help business owners manage not only their sales but their businesses. We examined each POS system's reporting options, inventory-management tools and employee tools. We asked our testers to evaluate and rate how simple it was to perform basic tasks like adding inventory items, running customized reports and creating user profiles. While many small businesses do not have a lot of employees, we looked at employee-management tools, such as the ability to track employee sales and time worked. Some also include scheduling features and time clocks.
Sales & Customer Management
Sales persons or clerks should be able to easily process sales and enter customer information. Further, the best Android tablet POS systems should be able to print, email or text receipts to customers. We tested all 10 systems to see how simple and quick it was to process simple sales and print or send receipts. Most POS systems should also be able to track loyalty programs and assist with social-media efforts. Some even allow patrons to place orders online or by mobile phone and a few assist with delivery orders.
Help & Support
Finally, good support should be available when you need it, regardless of the hour. We rated those POS system the highest who offered 24-hour support, even if you have to pay extra for support. The best Android POS services not only help you set up your system, but they will help you migrate data, such as customer and inventory information, if needed. We also looked to see if APIs are available for those wanting to create their own integrations. If that's the case, we recommend you contact prospective POS companies and speak with them about the available support options before deciding on which service you want to use.
For more tips on finding a good POS system, see our articles about point of sale systems in our POS Systems Learning Center. Here, you can learn about POS technologies, mobile options, bitcoin payment processing, compliance, security and much more.
Free Android POS Systems: Do They Exist?
Despite what some POS companies claim, nothing is free. Even if the software is free, credit card processing is never free and often one-on-one support costs extra as well. While many POS services offer introductory free accounts, often the number of items, customers, users or transactions is limited without an upgrade. With some Android POS systems, you may have to add paid apps in order to make it do everything you want.
Here are a few you may discover in your quest for finding the best "free" Android POS system for your business:
The first thing you'll notice about this system is that the prices listed on its website are in Euros; that's because the company is based in the Netherlands. Like most software, you can change the currency to dollars (or whatever suits your needs). This Android POS solution includes the POS app, dashboard, inventory support and unlimited transactions for free, but most of the other features are paid add-ons. For example, branding your receipts is a paid option, phone support is extra, mobile and email receipts, and even unique employee logins are extra. Unless you need basic functions, using this system to its fullest potential could become quite expensive quickly.
This Android POS software is intended for bars and restaurants. It's compatible with smartphones and small tablets. It includes offline options and supports restaurant functions such as splitting tickets. It is available on Google Play and is free to start. While this software can help you track items and sales, you'll still need to pay for your own credit card processing, and it is not fully online. It does not support all currencies and support is limited to an email form.
This free POS software is suitable for retail shops, but it also advertises it can work for bars and restaurants. This POS software includes a simple layout and can support a large number of items. It is capable of helping you process PayPal, bitcoin or Authorize.net payments. Payment processing is, of course, additional. You'll need to upgrade to the paid pro version for features such as PayPal checkout support, custom invoices and table management.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
The Android POS systems that are easiest to use are, quite often, are those that offer not just a range of features but features of a higher caliber than competing POS systems. For instance, the best Android POS systems offer frequent upgrades, well-designed interfaces, helpful integrations and innovative features. Clover, for instance, offers easy-to-set-up plug-and-play systems that do not require technical training to install, and you can add a choice of apps to easily create the custom system to suit your needs. Erply offers numerous POS solution types and the ability to mix technologies such as physical terminals with iOS and Android mobile devices. Verifone is a well-known POS provider that provides a wide-range of trusted hardware options. We found Kounta simple to use, and it supports numerous add-ons to help you build a comprehensive business solution. Square provides a low upfront cost solution with flat-rate credit card processing, making it perfect for those starting out in business or those who need mobile processing.
Before you start researching Android POS systems, we recommend that you first put together a list of your needs. You can find a suggested list of questions to ask yourself in our article, "Where to Start." Once you have a good idea of what you're looking for, investigate a few solutions to see what might be the best fit. Also, carefully review and consider credit card processing costs. There is a lot of fine print with many processing contracts so you'll want to carefully review all the fees and terms of commitment. Next, contact customer service to see which company seems to be able to offer you the level of service you require. Finally, be sure to read our ranking and reviews of the best Android POS systems.
No matter the size of your business, an Android POS system can be a great benefit. Not only should the system be easy for you and your employees to use in day-to-day transactions, it should also help you keep track of your business down to the smallest item in your inventory.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison using free demo accounts or by accessing a login directly from the provider. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.