This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Investing in sophisticated checkout setups used to cost small businesses thousands of dollars. By building software solutions that operate on iPads, point-of-sale (POS) systems can now offer small businesses robust touch-screen POS tools on affordable, user-friendly hardware.
In addition to inventory tracking, vendor management, employee scheduling, and ecommerce operations, many of our top-rated iPad POS systems also offer a free baseline software subscription without long-term user contracts.
Based on our evaluations, the best iPad POS systems are:
- Best overall: Square
- Best for choice of payment processor: Loyverse
- Best for retailers: Shopify
- Best for inventory management: Lightspeed
- Best for restaurants and cafes: TouchBistro
iPad POS Systems Compared
Our iPad POS Rating
Monthly Software Fee
Read Full Review
$0 to $69-plus
Specialized POS for restaurants, retail, and appointments
Employee management (add-on)
$0 to $89*
Shipping discounts and monthly installment plans for customers through Shop Pay
$89 to $269
Specialized POS for retail, restaurants, golf courses, and hotels
Designed for restaurants and tableside ordering
*Plus required ecommerce plan ($29-$299).
Not sure which type of POS you need?
See our detailed guide to the types of POS systems.
Square: Best Overall iPad POS Systems
Square POS is the most convenient choice for small and new business owners. A cloud-based POS system, it offers a strong set of restaurant and retail features for free while providing additional premium tools for growing retail, restaurant, salon, and ecommerce businesses. For all these reasons, Square is also our favorite overall POS system for small businesses.
Square builds its in-house card processing solution into every Square account. Your subscription comes with a free magstripe card reader to turn any iPad device into a payment terminal. iPad POS users will love that Square’s POS subscriptions allow you to operate the POS app on an unlimited number of terminals.
Since our last update:
In late January 2022, Square added buy now, pay later (BNPL) functionality for both in-person and online sales through Afterpay.
In April 2022, Square released a completely revamped version of its iPad hardware, Square Stand. This new version is more streamlined with card readers built directly into the frame and includes a customer-facing summary screen at checkout. Plus, the new version retails for $20 less than the old model at $149.
Based on our evaluation, Square leads our list of iPad POS systems, earning a total score of 4.59 out of 5, with top marks for iPad POS-specific features and expert scores. The only things keeping this comprehensive POS and ecommerce system from a perfect score are the lack of additional payment processing options and limited customer support for free users.
Loyverse: Best for Choosing Your Payment Processor
Loyverse is built for small businesses looking for a convenient POS system that combines simple transaction processing, customer engagement, and business data analysis in one free bundle. Loyalty features are where Loyverse (Loyalty Universe) ultimately shines. It comes with a loyalty rewards program that automatically tallies points and prints the balance on the customer receipt.
Like Square, Loyverse allows users to install their POS software on unlimited terminals. Unlike Square, however, Loyverse also includes customer loyalty in its free POS and allows you to choose your payment processor.
In our evaluation, Loyverse scored 4.16 out of 5 compared to other iPad POS systems. It earned high marks for pricing and generous free POS features. The ability to shop around for the best rates and choose your preferred payment processor also scored points, although users should know using unintegrated processors can limit their Loyverse POS’s offline functionality.
This system could have scored higher if it supported more robust inventory tools, included a free mobile card reader (as competitors like Square do), and added integrated ecommerce tools like Square, Shopify, and Lightspeed.
See how Loyverse compares to Square and other free POS systems.
Shopify: Best for Retail Sales
Shopify POS is a cloud-based iPad POS built to integrate with the popular Shopify ecommerce platform. Orders placed online deplete your in-house virtual stock, so you never sell an item you don’t have in stock. POS Plus users can also allow customers to buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS).
We’ve rated Shopify as the best ecommerce platform for small businesses, so it’s not surprising that the attached POS is also a top contender for iPad POS software.
Since our last update:
Shop Pay Installments, Shopify’s buy now, pay later program, has expanded its program to allow monthly installments of up to 12 months on orders between $50 and $17,500. This adds greater flexibility and puts it a step ahead of most BNPL programs that only offer four installments over a multitude of weeks.
Shopify earned an overall score of 4.12 out of 5 with outstanding marks for pricing, ease of use, and features. Its excellent ecommerce features also make Shopify a strong contender for our best mobile POS recommendations.
However, the added cost of detailed inventory and omnichannel features and lack of offline payment processing prevented Shopify from earning a higher score. If offline functionality is an absolute requirement for your business, you’ll likely be happier with Lightspeed or TouchBistro.
Lightspeed: Best for Inventory Management & Niche Shop Operations
Lightspeed Retail leads the pack in terms of inventory management. It’s equipped to handle thousands of unique stock keeping units (SKUs) and loaded with features that make inventory management a breeze, such as the ability to view supplier catalogs straight from Lightspeed and automatically draft new purchase orders. Lightspeed’s new business-to-business (B2B) supplier network offers excellent capability for ordering supplies directly from your POS system as opposed to using invoices.
These user-friendly tools make Lightspeed our top choice POS for inventory management. Square and Shopify have advanced inventory as an add-on, but the tools available on these platforms are not nearly as comprehensive as Lightspeed’s.
Since our last update:
In June 2022, Lightspeed launched a B2B platform to create a supplier network with North American fashion, outdoor, and sports retailers. This network of thousands of retailers integrates B2B orders directly into the POS system. This allows you to order from these brands directly through the Lightspeed Commerce platform. Even more, the order details, products, and inventory are updated in your POS system automatically―even photos.
Based on our evaluation, Lightspeed earned a score of 3.71 out of 5, with its highest category the expert score because its inventory tools and versatility make it a good value for the money.
Lightspeed could improve, however, by offering more of these tools and integrations in the Lean POS, however, particularly since its cheapest plan is the most expensive on our list ($89).
Small business necessities like Lightspeed accounting integrations and customizable reporting are available only on more expensive plans. If you need an all-in-one iPad POS with these tools at a lower cost, you’ll likely prefer Square.
Note: Lightspeed does not list a free card reader on its website any longer.
TouchBistro: Best for Small Restaurants, Coffee Shops & Cafes
If food and beverage is your business, TouchBistro offers an affordable iPad POS with a wealth of tools for coffee shops and restaurants, including time clocks and table orders, and kitchen display system (KDS) software.
TouchBistro users can easily convert stationary TouchBistro tablets to tableside ordering tablets with easy-to-navigate table and seat numbers that enable quick ordering and check splitting.
TouchBistro’s inventory module offers two settings: item tracking and ingredient-level tracking. Small shops that sell prepackaged ready-to-eat (RTE) and ready-to-drink (RTD) items can stick with the simple item-level tracking. Cafes and restaurants that prepare food and beverages to order can rely on more detailed inventory tools to track bulk ingredients through various dishes, something the other POS systems don’t have, particularly in their basic POS plans.
TouchBistro ties with Lightspeed, earning 3.71 out of 5 on our iPad POS scoring system. This POS scored well for its price and had a strong expert score because of its ease of use.
TouchBistro’s user interface resembles Apple’s iOS more closely than any other system on this list. This configuration makes TouchBistro very simple to learn; if you’ve ever used an iPhone, you can use TouchBistro. The familiar interface also means you’ll spend less time training new staff on the POS system.
The hybrid system had cloud functionality with a hard-wired local connection as a backup when the internet is down, something the others don’t offer.
Its general features are good, but it lost points because gift card processing is an add-on. Even more, unlike Square and Shopify, TouchBistro’s baseline POS does not include ecommerce tools. It’s not as popularly rated, and its mobile rating was the lowest of those on our list, which hurt its score as well.
If you need retail features, you’ll want to check out any of the other systems on this list.
Methodology: How We Evaluated iPad POS Systems
We compared a dozen of the most popular POS systems based on common small business pain points. We looked at each system’s price, payment processing options, general POS functions, and ease of use. We also considered our retail and restaurant experts’ personal evaluations of each software.
Based on the above criteria, Square is the best iPad POS. According to our grading system for iPad POS software, Square’s POS tools received the highest overall score (4.59 out of 5). In fact, with our updated evaluation, Square’s rating went up while the others went down. Based on our personal experience testing different POS software and working in and with small businesses that use iPad POS systems regularly, Square is also the top software that we recommend personally.
Click through the box below for our specific evaluation criteria.
20% of Overall Score
30% of Overall Score
We sought out solutions that offer a variety of customizable features, including accepting many different types of payments. We also evaluated each system’s ability to manage inventory efficiently, sell or accept orders online, manage employees, and view detailed reports anywhere. Shopify, Lightspeed, and Square tied here with 4.5 out of 5.
30% of Overall Score
Here, we highlighted the efficiency of using an iPad POS. We emphasized remote functions and mobility, evaluating each system’s ability to network multiple iPad POS devices, which is a key advantage in iPad POS systems. We also evaluated iPad-compatible card readers, and we gave points for systems that can issue digital receipts and process offline transactions if you lose your internet connection. Square had a perfect score here.
10% of Overall Score
Small businesses can be busiest in off-hours like evenings and weekends, so we looked for systems that offer 24/7 customer support. We also considered user reviews of each system, awarding the highest points to POS that earned average user ratings above 4.5 on popular review sites. Shopify beat Square here with a 4.63 out of 5 vs Square’s 4.13.
10% of Overall Score
Finally, we weighed each system’s software and hardware options against its cost to determine which systems offer an excellent overall value for price. We considered each system’s standout features and also noted any essential functions it lacked. We noted how popular each system is among small business owners, then awarded points based on our experience interacting with the software and the company’s customer support. All scored high, as should be expected, but Square and Shopify each got a perfect 5 out of 5.
iPad POS Systems Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is an iPad POS system?
An iPad POS system is simply a POS system that will work on an iPad. This means you don’t need to buy a special register but can download the software onto any compatible iPad. Most iPad POS systems offer support hardware, including stands, card readers, and accessories like barcode scanners. But it’s possible to run the entire system only on your tablet or smartphone.
Why Should You Use an iPad POS?
These systems typically operate by backing up your business data to the cloud, so you can monitor your sales costs and key business metrics from anywhere. An iPad POS system also costs a lot less than a traditional, locally installed POS. In most cases, you can install an iPad POS yourself. Plus, the iPad interface is familiar to anyone who has used a smartphone, so your staff will learn the system quickly. Because iPads are highly mobile, your iPad POS tablets can operate curbside, tableside, or even as self-service kiosks easily.
How does an iPad POS system differ from other POS systems?
iPad POS systems differ from traditional POS systems because they typically are more affordable with a lower startup cost, flexible, and can be used for multiple functions, and they are mobile meaning you can accept payments at a checkout counter, on the sales floor, or on the go. Because iPad POS software is typically an app that you download, it’s usually incredibly easy to use, especially for people that are accustomed to operating iPhones or iPads.
Learn more in our article on types of POS systems.
How much does an iPad POS system cost?
At a minimum, you’ll need an iPad, which retails for $329-plus new. iPad POS software is typically free to install and has a monthly fee of $0 to $200. Finally, you’ll want a card reader and/or iPad stand, which can cost $50 to $200. Accessories like barcode scanners, receipt printers, and cash drawers will have additional fees. Some POS systems, like Shopify, Square, and Lightspeed offer starter hardware kits. Learn more about the hardware by reading the costs of POS systems.
How do I decide what iPad POS system to use?
First, determine what features you need, how many registers you need, and how much you are willing to pay, not only for hardware but for your monthly fees. Then, decide what kind of payment processing you need. This may be affected by how much you process in sales, whether you have a high-risk business, or other factors. Finally, read articles like ours to research and compare the different systems. Also, ask fellow business owners, too. You can’t beat real-world experience.
iPad POS systems are not just for iOS lovers. They are easy to use, versatile, and feature-rich. Many reputable POS services make their software compatible with iPads, while offering support hardware to make a complete cash register system that works well in even a large store or restaurant. We’ve chosen the best five for price and feature set as well as payment processing.
Square received the highest score across our grading system for its affordable price, free card reader, general POS features, flexible POS tools, and ease of use. With a free baseline subscription tier and the ability to operate the system on hardware you already own, Square also offers an excellent value for the price. This system can be configured to fit the needs of any small retail or restaurant operation and can grow with your business as it expands or your needs change. To see if Square has the tools you need, visit Square for a demo.