Convenience Squared

2 12 2009

by: christow

Remember when having a store open 24 hours was the ultimate convenience? Me Neither.

In 2009, we saw the evolution of mobility develop into the ultra-connectedness with cell phones. iPhones and Blackberries alike have integrated themselves on par with wallets and keys. The e-mails, the blogging, the tweeting, the photos have all formed so easily into our daily routine that without these mobile devices some are left clueless. Some would argue that this wave of technology has turned users into robotic drones, swallowed whole by their mobile devices. Applications and text messaging alienating them from human contact and being present amongst a group of people.

Those arguments are all valid but leave little room for the argument of convenience, efficiency, and innovation. Although cell phones can have that introverted effect on us, they can also be a source of efficiency and convenience. Today the term convenience goes head on with people who are old-fashioned. Many people who avoid the mobile devices say they enjoy the phone calls and simple texts still, writing down notes with a pen and pad and having time away from the Internet. But continuing with the argument, convenience is still there for those who are willing to engage on the benefits and don’t necessarily fit into the mindless cell phone users.

There is personal-financing with Mint.com, music filtering recommendations with Hypem.com and Pandora, and even ways to manage your health (via food budgeting) with Daily Burn. These are all tools that can enable your life to be easier in some sense by actively doing work that could take your hours at a time. The following argument then ensues, do those hours of work make me sharper and better for it or do those hours saved by using those services create valuable time used for other things? An argument worth addressing in the future. But in the meantime another service worth keeping an eye out for.

Meet Square.

In brief, Square is a venture into the market of mobile purchasing. With Square, users will have a virtual account that manages your purchases and utilize an add-on device that plugs into the audio (headphone) jack to make your purchases. This allows you to swipe your card in order to make physical payments. What are the benefits of using a system like this?

Visa, Mastercard and American Express have all agreed to allow Square to take payments. This is notable because, like PayPal, Square allows anyone to have a virtual merchant account and take payments directly. Getting a merchant account isn’t trivial, which is why only actual businesses usually do it. But with Square, people can sell tshirts at football games. Street vendors can take credit cards. We can sell tickets to our events on site, etc.

via TechCrunch

The venture that Square is making with mobile purchasing could have a lasting effect on our spending habits. Think about it, how much money did you spend today? Did you keep track of all of your receipts from your transactions today? With Square, every transaction can send you an e-mailed receipt or a text message with your purchase. Budgeting could very well be just a tad bit easier. Even more, carrying cash or running to the ATM won’t be as vital (those $3.00 convenience charges add-up).

Or Square could be added to a long line of start-ups that had a great idea but never integrated into an everyday service. One of the major problems of these start-ups is that cities beside San Francisco throughout the United States may not have technology so heavily incorporated into their lives. The San Francisco Bay Area is unique in that the heart web innovation lies in Silicon Valley. The tech culture is enveloped in this area and accepted within the communities. Other cities may not be so inclined to hop on the constant wave of technology booms.

That’s not to say that the users in the cities are not open to such ventures; most users are equipped with the aptitude of learning new technologies that can enhance their lives. Rather, the businesses are who I worry about catching on. Not every store owner in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles may be an iPhone and Blackberry user and may not be as open about having a service such as Square apart of their business. The challenge for Square and other companies hoping to engage in this market isn’t the concept of mobile purchasing, but proving that the service can have an easy and efficient integration into the business setting.

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