5 Best iPad POS Systems for Small Businesses
This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
Point-of-sale (POS) systems that operate on iPads give 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 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
4.59 / 5
Specialized POS for restaurants, retail, and appointments
4.16 / 5
$0 (Add-ons from $5 to $25 per month)
Employee management (add-on module)
4.12 / 5
$0–$89 plus required ecommerce plan ($39 to $399)
Shipping discounts, installment plans for customers through Shop Pay
3.71 / 5
$69–$199 (Lightspeed Retail)
Specialized POS for retail, restaurants, and golf courses.
3.71 / 5
Designed for restaurants and tableside ordering
Not sure which type of POS you need?
See our detailed guide to the types of POS systems.
Square: Best Overall iPad POS Systems
- Baseline POS software for general purpose, retail, and restaurants is free
- Subscription includes free mobile card reader
- Free integrated ecommerce site
- Unlimited iPad registers and users
- Sophisticated marketing and loyalty software
- Cannot use outside payment gateways
- Free subscriptions have limited customer support
- Some add-ons can get expensive
Who Should Use Square:
- Small retail or restaurant businesses wanting POS systems that are free, available on mobile, and have multichannel capability
Who Should Use an Alternative:
- Businesses needing matrix or ingredient-level inventory
- Specialty food and beverage establishments that need an industry-specific system
- Businesses that rely on ticket sales
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 top-recommended 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. Square also has Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) functionality for both in-person and online sales through Afterpay.
In addition, Square offers various hardware devices, including 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. The new version retails for $149, with the option to pay via monthly installments.
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. Merchants wanting more payment processing options can consider Loyverse instead; more accessible customer support can be had with TouchBistro.
- What is Square? Learn more about why it’s a small business favorite.
- View step-by-step instructions for setting up Square POS.
- Learn more about Square’s industry-specific POS systems: Square for Retail, Square Appointments, and Square for Restaurants.
- Monthly software subscription fee: $0 to $69
- Custom plans and add-ons available
- Custom pricing for businesses processing over $250,000
- Payment processing options: Must use built-in Square Payment processing
- Processing fees:
- In-person: 2.6% + 10 cents
- Manually keyed: 3.5% + 15 cents
- Online: 2.9% + 30 cents
- Mobile card reader: First free (swipe only); $49 per additional reader
- iPad hardware cost: Square Stand $149 or $14 per month for 12 months
- Free native online store: Square lets you build an online store for your business even if you stick to the free plan. It is simple to set up, highly customizable, and comes with features like pre-ordering and discounts. While you can get a better online store with Shopify, Square’s is perfectly serviceable.
- Square Subscriptions: You can create custom billing models to get paid on the schedule that is most convenient for you and offer free trials to entice customers to sign up for full subscriptions.
- Square Teams: With this employee management module, you can track staff hours, create and publish shift schedules, build databases of employee names and job titles, set and track commissions per team member (plus, integrate these into payroll), and assign permissions for each employee—all from one dashboard.
- Marketing: Square offers both email and text message marketing tools, letting you choose from among several pre-built campaigns.
Loyverse: Best for Choosing Your Own Payment Processor
- Choose your own payment processor
- Forever-free POS system
- Loyalty tools included in baseline POS
- Kitchen display system included in free plan
- No option for built-in payment processing; need to use external payment processor
- No native ecommerce features; requires third-party integration
- Customer support is all web and chat-based; no phone support available
Who Should Use Loyverse:
- Quick service restaurants (QSRs) and small food-based retailers
- Small businesses that need a free system
- Businesses looking to shop around for the best rates
Who Should Use an Alternative:
- Large or upscale restaurants
- Regulated industries
- Businesses that need thorough analytics
Loyverse is built for small businesses looking for a convenient POS system that combines simple transaction processing and customer engagement in one free bundle.
Loyalty features are where Loyverse (Loyalty Universe) ultimately shines. The baseline POS comes with a loyalty rewards program that automatically tallies points and prints the balance on the customer receipt. This built-in program gives Loyverse an edge over other POS systems which would require additional fees or integrations to unlock dedicated loyalty features.
Like Square, Loyverse allows users to install their POS software on unlimited terminals. Unlike Square, however, Loyverse allows you to choose your payment processor—with 13 integrated options currently available.
In our evaluation of iPad POS systems, Loyverse scored 4.16 out of 5. 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.
Users should also take note that while the Loyverse POS app is available for iOS (and Android), Loyverse currently does not have a PC-based POS program. Back-office tools, however, can be accessed via the web.
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 included native ecommerce tools as Square, Shopify, and Lightspeed do.
See how Loyverse compares to Square and other free POS systems.
- Software subscription fee: $0 per month for the basic POS including Kitchen Display and Customer Display
- Optional Add-ons (paid monthly):
- Advanced inventory: $25
- Employee management: $5 per employee; annual pricing $50 per year per employee
- Integrations: $9 per store
- 14-day free trial for add-ons
- Available payment processors: Integrates directly with SumUp, Worldpay, Zettle, and others. Supports countless unintegrated payment processors.
- Processing fees: Varies based on processor
- iPad hardware cost: Varies based on third-party seller; Loyverse itself does not sell hardware
- Loyalty rewards program: You can convert customers’ accumulated points into discounts the next time they purchase something. Customers who are enrolled in the loyalty program will be able to receive these rewards across all of your store branches.
- Employee management: You’ll get the standard options of setting access rights based on staff roles, setting up employee lists, and monitoring individual sales performance. To get the full functionality of the employee management system, you’ll need to pay for an add-on module. You can start with a 14-day free trial.
Shopify: Best for Retail Sales
- Free POS
- Integrated social media sales tools
- POS screen layout customization
- Shipping discounts of up to 88%
- Requires ecommerce subscription
- You need a POS Pro subscription to support more than one terminal
- Cannot process offline payments
Who Should Use Shopify:
- Businesses that want to connect a Shopify online store
- Businesses that need multichannel POS systems
- Sellers who want a strong social media presence
Who Should Use an Alternative:
- Businesses that don’t need or want an online store
- Restaurants and cafes
- Regulated industries
- Food-based retailers that need ingredient-centered inventory tracking
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’ll never end up selling 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. Its excellent ecommerce features also make Shopify a strong contender for our best mobile POS recommendations (though users need to pay a subscription fee for ecommerce functions).
Shop Pay Installments—Shopify’s buy now, pay later feature—has expanded its program to allow monthly installments of up to 12 months on orders between $150 and $17,500. This adds greater flexibility and puts it a step ahead of most BNPL programs that only offer four installments over several weeks.
Shopify also has integrations with several social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok—giving you more online avenues on which to market and sell items.
However, if offline functionality is an absolute requirement for your business, you’ll likely be happier with Lightspeed or TouchBistro.
- Want to learn more? Check out our Shopify POS review and demo video
- Offer click and collect or buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) for your customers
- How to set up Shopify POS
- Step-by-step instructions for setting up a Shopify online store
- Software subscription fee:
- Ecommerce subscription (required): $39 to $399 per month
- POS: $0 per month
- POS Pro: $89 per month per location
- Available payment processors:
- Integrates with more than 100 global gateways for ecommerce sales (for additional fee)
- Must use Shopify Payments for POS
- Processing fees: 2.4% to 2.7% for in-person transactions; 2.4% + 30 cents to 2.9% + 30 cents for online transactions
- Mobile card reader: $49+
- iPad accessories cost: $99+
- Online store: Shopify POS offers you tools to build an online store as long as you are logged into your Shopify account on the website. In addition to the online store, you can also sync your product catalog with social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. The Shopify ecommerce store will run you anywhere from $39 to $399 per month, depending on your Shopify plan.
- Inventory management: Maintain a stock library to which you can upload inventory and keep track of items as well as generate and view sales reports. The Stocky app (available via subscription to Shopify Pro) gives you additional features such as demand forecasting; more detailed reports, counts, and analysis; and low stock reports.
Lightspeed: Best for Inventory Management & Niche Shop Operations
- Strong core inventory management features
- Native appointment scheduling and subscription management tools
- Multiple versions of Lightspeed for different commerce needs
- Robust native ecommerce tools
- Additional cost for more than one register
- Accounting and loyalty tools require higher-tier subscriptions
- Pricing is higher than other iPad POS systems
Who Should Use Lightspeed:
- Businesses that need large-scale of complex inventory management
- Businesses that rely on multichannel sales
- Regulated or specialty retailers
Who Should Use an Alternative:
- Businesses with small or simple inventories
- Businesses looking for a free POS option
- Sellers who need mobile hardware
- Full- or quick-service restaurants (consider Lightspeed Restaurant)
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 business-to-business (B2B) supplier network offers excellent capability for ordering supplies directly from your POS system as opposed to using invoices. This network caters to retailers selling products in the fashion, outdoor, and sports industries. When you join this network, your order details, products, inventory, and even photos will be automatically updated in your POS system.
Lightspeed’s versatility, user-friendly tools, and automated supplier network make this POS our top choice for inventory management. Square and Shopify have advanced inventory as add-ons, but the tools available on these platforms are not nearly as comprehensive as Lightspeed’s.
Lightspeed could improve by offering more of its tools and integrations in the Lean subscription, however, particularly since its cheapest plan is one of the most expensive on our list at $69 per month.
Business necessities such as accounting integrations and advanced reporting are available only on the more expensive plans. If you need an all-in-one iPad POS that includes these tools at a lower overall cost, you’ll likely prefer Square.
See how Lightspeed compares to Square
Learn how to use Lightspeed for inventory management
- Software subscription fee:
- $69 to $199 per month (Lightspeed Retail)
- Custom plans available
- Additional terminals at $59 each per month
- Available Payment Processors: Lightspeed Payments, 2Accept, Sunday, Stripe, TSYS, Vantiv, and Worldpay
- Lightspeed Payments processing fees:
- 2.6% + 10 cents for in-person tapped, dipped, or swiped transactions
- 2.6% + 30 cents for card-not-present transactions
- Rates for other processors are custom-quoted
- iPad Hardware Cost: Call Lightspeed for custom quote
- Inventory management: The cloud-based inventory management system is designed to handle large quantities of stock, with customizable matrix inventory and variant control. You can track inventory levels across all your store locations, import product lists, adjust pricing individually or in bulk, and assign unique serial numbers for easier searching. Finally, you’ll have Lightspeed’s B2B supplier network at your fingertips.
- Reporting and analytics: With the basic POS plan, you’ll have the standard options of sales tracking, demand and trend forecasting, customer purchase history, and staff performance. Lightspeed’s most expensive Advanced plan ($199 per month) will give you customizable reports, data analysis and suggestions, A/B testing capabilities, and more.
If you operate a specialized business like a golf course or a restaurant, Lightspeed also offers customized solutions: Lightspeed Golf and Lightspeed Restaurant, the latter of which has several series. Lightspeed Retail also has multiple versions, such as the X-Series, which was previously Vend.
TouchBistro: Best for Small Restaurants, Coffee Shops & Cafes
- User-friendly; resembles Apple iOS
- Tableside ordering included in baseline POS
- Speed-ordering screens and combo-building
- 24/7 customer support
- Includes staff features like clock-in and labor costing
- Free card reader not included
- Requires a one-year contract
- Pricing is per register; additional registers require extra fees
Who Should Use TouchBistro:
- Pubs and breweries
- Food trucks
- Quick-service restaurants
- Food businesses that self-manage delivery
- Restaurant and food and beverage businesses needing multiple terminals
Who Should Use an Alternative:
- Businesses looking for a free POS
- Businesses that need purchase order and vendor management
- Businesses that prefer POS systems with short-term contracts
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. 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. Note, however, that some of these tools come with additional monthly fees.
The 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. These are among the reasons TouchBistro makes the cut as one of our best restaurant POS systems.
This hybrid system has both cloud functionality and a hard-wired local connection as a backup, which helps keep your restaurant in business even if your internet connection goes down, a safety feature that you won’t get with other systems such as Shopify POS. Be sure to familiarize yourself with exactly what you can and cannot do with TouchBistro if you lose your internet connection.
TouchBistro’s general features are good, but it lost points because its loyalty program, marketing campaigns, and gift card processing are all add-ons with extra fees. 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 is quite low. Finally, keep in mind that this POS is best for restaurants and other food-based businesses. If you need retail-specific features, you’ll want to check out any of the other systems on this list.
- Do you want to learn more? Check out our full TouchBistro review and demo
- See how TouchBistro compares to Toast, a popular POS system for restaurants
- Software subscription fee: $69+ per terminal monthly
- Add-ons (billed monthly):
- Online ordering: $50
- Loyalty: $99
- Marketing: $99
- Gift cards: $25
- Reservations: $229
- Available payment processors: TouchBistro Payments, Square, Moneris, Worldpay, TSYS, and Chase
- Processing fees: Varies based on your chosen processor; contact TouchBistro for a custom quote
- iPad hardware cost: Custom-quoted
- Tableside ordering: Servers can bring an iPad to take the orders of customers who are out on a patio or other outdoor seating. Staff will also receive critical prompts and reminders on their tablets, as well as being able to split bills, seats, and items.
- Online ordering add-on: For $50 per month, you can accept delivery and pickup orders via your POS, through your establishment’s website, Google business profile, and social media channels. You can also integrate with TouchBistro Marketing to send promotions, marketing materials, and loyalty rewards to customers.
Methodology: How We Evaluated iPad POS Systems
We compared 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 received the highest overall score (4.59 out of 5). 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 of 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 achieved a perfect score here.
10% of Overall Score
Small businesses can be busiest during 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 took the crown here with a score of 4.63.
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)
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 providers 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.
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.
iPad POS systems differ from traditional POS systems because the former are typically more affordable with a lower startup cost, greater flexibility, and they can be used for multiple functions. They are also mobile by nature, 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.
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.
First, determine what features you need, how many registers you need, and how much you are willing to pay—not only for your monthly fees, but also for any additional hardware or accessories. 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; you can’t beat real-world experience.
iPad POS systems are not just for iOS lovers. These systems are easy to use, versatile, and feature-rich. Many reputable POS services make their software compatible with iPads, giving merchants reliable touch-screen solutions that work 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.