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The Square to your rescue

Square is a small plastic device that plugs into a cell phone’s audio jack and allows anyone, including small merchants and individuals, to accept credit card payments.

tech reviews Updated: Jan 11, 2010 20:05 IST

Square

After creating

Twitter

, Jack Dorsey has placed his money behind Square — a mobile payment venture created by Jim McKelvey, one-time employer and longtime friend of Dorsey. A deal of McKelvey’s small business fell apart after a buyer insisted on using American Express, a credit card that McKelvey’s company couldn’t accept.



“I said to Jack, we should solve this problem,” McKelvey said. “It began with a lost sale and the frustration of a small merchant.” Nine months later, the two partners revealed their proposed solution to a tech community thirsting to know the next move by the man whose microblogging service,

Twitter

, changed the way people connect and share information.



At its heart, Square is rather simple. It’s a small plastic device, or dongle, that plugs into a cell phone’s audio jack and allows anyone, including small merchants and individuals, to accept credit card payments. The credit card owner uses a finger to sign a receipt on the phone’s touch screen.



Back to square one

But now Square says smaller businesses and individuals will be able to piggyback on its merchant account, opening the world of credit card sales to people and businesses locked out by current restrictions.



For now, the company expects to go after businesses not big enough to have their own merchant accounts. That means they don’t expect to take much business from competitors. But McKelvey said they’ve had inquiries from clothing retailers interested in a system that would let employees do checkouts anywhere in a store.



There’s also the possibility that Square could prove popular for transactions between people making deals on Craigslist and the like. It is expected to launch in early 2010.



—MCT