mPOS (mobile point of sale) definition

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Understanding and responding to POS malware
Contributor(s): Emily McLaughlin

An mPOS ( mobile point of sale) is a smartphone, tablet or dedicated wireless device that performs the functions of a cash register or electronic point of sale terminal (POSint-of-sale terminal).

mPOS implementations allow service and sales industries to conduct financial transactions in place, improving the customer experience (CX) and freeing up valuable real estate that would otherwise be dedicated to a POS countertop. An mPOS can also be cost-effective, allowing a small business owner to conduct transactions without having to invest in an electronic register or pay someone to support the software.

Any smartphone or tablet can be transformed into an mPOS with a downloadable mobile app. Typically, when the business owner registers the app, the vendor sends the business owner a card reader that plugs into the mobile device's audio jack. Some mPOS software vendors also provide optional hand-held docking stations (called sleds) that allow the mobile device to read barcodes and print receipts.

Depending on the software, a mPOS can operate as a stand-alone device that's simply linked to the business' bank account or it can be an integrated component of a larger, legacy POS system. To protect cardholder data, customer data is encrypted and stored in the cloud -- not on the device.

Popular mobile POS vendors include PayPal, Square, Intuit and VeriFone.

See also: Square, wireless point of sale, mobile payment, mobile printing

This was first published in July 2014

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