This article is part of a larger series on POS Systems.
A touch-screen point-of-sale (POS) system operates on tablets and handheld devices, typically via an app. The biggest advantage of using a touch-screen or tablet POS is a streamlined interface for faster checkout. Plus, touch-screen devices are more portable than cash registers or hardwired countertop POS systems, allowing for mobile sales capabilities.
The best tablet and touch-screen POS systems are affordable, easy to use, and have key business management features like inventory management and sales reporting.
Based on our evaluation of over a dozen options, the best touch-screen POS systems are:
- Square: Best overall and best free touch-screen POS
- Lightspeed: Best touch-screen POS for inventory management
- Shopify: Best touch-screen POS for ecommerce retailers
- Toast: Best touch-screen POS for restaurants
- Vend: Best touch-screen POS for building customer loyalty
- Mindbody: Best touch-screen POS for appointment scheduling
Top Touch-screen POS Systems Compared
Offline Card Payment Processing
From 2.6% + 10 cents
Lightspeed Payments, WorldPay, Stripe, TSYS, 2Accept
From 2.6% + 10 cents
Shopify POS:** $0-$89
Shopify Ecommerce: $29–$299 (custom quote)
$0–$165 (custom quote)
From 2.49% + 15 cents
$119–$299 (custom quote)
TSYS, Worldpay, CardConnect, Chase, EVO Payments, PayPal, Square, and more
Depends on processor
Mindbody Payments, Stripe
*This is the monthly fee if you pay annually and use Lightspeed Payments. If you choose to use a different processor, monthly fees will be $119-$249.
**A Shopify Ecommerce subscription ($29-$299 per month) is required to use Shopify POS. So, your monthly price is a combination of your Shopify plan and POS subscription.
Want to learn more about how a POS can improve your business operations? Check out our Types of POS Systems article.
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Square: Best Overall & Best Free Touch-screen POS System
Square is the ideal touch-screen POS solution for most small businesses, especially since its free plans include many features for a single location, perfect for a new retailer, food truck, or cafe. Advanced features available in the affordable Plus plans at $60/month are ideal for quick-service restaurants (QSR), larger retailers, and sit-down restaurants.
Besides accepting payments, adding tips, and printing (or sending digital) receipts, Square lets you track employee hours, save a database of customers, and view sales reports—whether for your own reference or to integrate your sales and payroll data with QuickBooks. Square also offers optional upgrades for things like bar code scanning, a kitchen display system, appointment scheduling, and employee sales reports.
Based on our evaluation, Square leads our recommended touch-screen POS systems, earning a total score of 4.65 out of 5—the only software that scored perfect marks for touch-screen-specific features. While the lack of additional payment processing options and limited customer support kept Square from gaining a perfect score, its modest payment processing fee—combined with excellent features included in its free version—provides exceptional value, making Square the best touch-screen POS, the best iPad POS, and the best overall POS systems for small businesses.
Add all your items to Square so that employees can check out customers more quickly by simply clicking an image of each item on the touch screen. You can add your inventory manually or import in bulk using a spreadsheet. The free version of Square has surprisingly strong inventory management—including categories, variants, modifiers, and low-stock alerts—although you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version of Square for Retail to print barcodes, create purchase orders, and view detailed inventory reports.
You can create basic customer profiles right from the checkout counter and track loyalty points and purchase histories. Engage your customers with a feedback tool on digital receipts for collecting real-time feedback. Get more insight with Square Loyalty ($45 per month) and Square Marketing ($15 per month) add-ons.
Employees clock in and out at the register, so you can keep track of their hours (including breaks and overtime) and export timecards for payroll. Square also includes employee scheduling tools to streamline operations.
The free version of Square for Restaurants includes table and menu management, so servers can open tabs and add items with ease. Square integrates with third-party delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub and also provides its own free online ordering platform. Square for Restaurants Plus adds a kitchen display system, table map, coursing, and more detailed employee/server sales reports.
Square’s free version includes about a dozen sales reports, including sales by category, discounts applied, and real-time hourly, weekly, and monthly sales charts. Paid versions include more detailed personnel reports, such as sales by employee, revenue per labor hour, and stock forecasting.
Free users can access phone, chat, and email support Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern time. Paying users can access support 24/7.
While the Square POS offers great value to startups, it might not be the best option once your operations grow. You will need a better inventory and reporting management tool if you begin maintaining complex inventories and multiple locations. For this, you will find Lightspeed the better option, with its more sophisticated inventory management feature, highly customizable reporting function, and better multilocation management tools. Additionally, Lightspeed offers a more flexible payment processing option, which means you can shop around for better transaction fees.
Learn more in our Square POS review.
Lightspeed: Best Touch-screen POS for Inventory Management
Lightspeed is our best recommendation for retail businesses with large inventories and those running multiple locations. The system comes with ecommerce features and a free payment terminal with each subscription, but Lightspeed’s inventory management features are what make it stand out from competitors.
It can sort through items with searchable tags, automatically add to your inventory by scanning barcodes, check supplier lists, and draft purchase orders straight from the platform. All these make Lightspeed highly effective in handling thousands of unique SKUs, which also makes it our top choice for POS inventory management.
Based on our evaluation, Lightspeed earned a score of 4.32 out of 5 with outstanding marks for its top-of-the-line inventory management and analytic tools and ease of use. It fell behind Square in terms of pricing, because while the monthly plans are within our pricing threshold, access to offline transaction processing, additional registers, and mobile card readers are an additional cost, making large POS setups quite pricey.
Lightspeed Retail offers the most advanced inventory management of any touch-screen POS on this list. It’s equipped to handle hundreds or even thousands of unique SKUs thanks to handy features like the ability to tag items with searchable terms. Plus, Lightspeed Retail uploads vendor catalogs, making it easy for businesses to reorder stock whenever it runs low. Most other POS systems don’t have built-in product catalogs or features to manage purchase orders directly.
Along with the basic CRM functions, Lightspeed offers additional tools with Lightspeed Loyalty. It allows you to create a rewards program, and customer credit accounts and build SMS and email marketing campaigns. You can also automatically segment customers for targeted messaging and sending coupons as well as special offers.
All Lightspeed plans let you create an unlimited number of user accounts for employees to clock in and out. This allows you to track hours and monitor employee performance with reports, like sales, average basket size, email capture rates, and how many customers each employee is helping.
Lightspeed has a very strong loyalty program. You can create a branded smartphone app for customers to check their points and view rewards. This also allows you to send push notifications, SMS, and email alerts for any special offers or eligible rewards. To access the loyalty program you’ll need to be on an “Advanced” plan or higher.
Reports and analytics
Lightspeed includes more than 60 built-in reports covering inventory, sales, and customer behavior. While this alone is more than most POS systems will offer, the “Pro” plan also lets you build custom reports using any data points in the system.
Phone, live chat, and email support are available 24/7.
One of the key features that we’re missing on Lightspeed is an offline payment processing function. It allows you to continue working on other business management tasks such as accepting orders and tracking inventory, but the system does not have the ability to accept card payment transactions while offline. If your business operates in areas with a less-than-stable internet connection, you’ll be better served with alternative solutions such as Square and Toast, which offer secure offline payment processing.
Want to learn more about Lightspeed? Check out our full Lightspeed POS review.
Shopify: Best Touch-screen POS for Ecommerce Retailers
Shopify is the best POS solution for online retail businesses that want to expand to in-person sales. As one of the world’s leading ecommerce platforms for small businesses, Shopify allows you to create an online store and manage both your online and in-person sales from the same system. This keeps your inventory, sales, and customer data synchronized at all times.
Furthermore, you can use Shopify to sell on Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Instagram—truly managing all your sales channels from one platform. While each Shopify account does come with a free POS app plan to help you get started, it’s important to note that key POS features can only be accessed by upgrading to a paid plan.
Our evaluation earned Shopify an overall score of 4.31 out of 5, receiving a perfect score for ease of use and top marks for pricing and general features. Shopify’s omnichannel selling tools create the perfect platform for easy business expansion. However, its lack of offline payment processing and need for upgrading to a paid plan in order to access key touch-screen POS features, such as digital signature capture, prevented Shopify from earning a higher score and landed it right behind Lightspeed.
With Shopify’s POS Pro add-on ($89 per month), you get a much more advanced inventory system than what you’ll find from Square, as Shopify enables you to create purchase orders and track incoming shipments. You can use a barcode scanner to confirm the items received and automatically add them to your inventory.
Shopify’s CRM tools in the baseline plan offer only basic features. You can create simple customer profiles and automate emails to send order updates, digital receipts, and post-purchase promotions. More dynamic CRM features can be accessed through integrations.
Like most touch-screen POS systems, you can create employee user accounts and have employees clock in/out to track their hours and monitor performance. However, Shopify does limit the number of user accounts you can set up on basic and standard plans.
Shopify Lite allows you to sell in person through the POS Lite app, or add a buy button on other websites. And while this plan does not allow you to build your own online store, you can still access in-store inventory and customer profiles, offer customer discounts, and access back-office functions—such as product management, order management, and reporting.
One of the main perks of using Shopify is the ability to create an online store and manage your orders from the same platform as your in-store sales. Shopify’s website builder is one of the most popular on the market. It’s capable of supporting just about any feature and integration you might require, and you can even use Shopify to sell on Amazon, Instagram, and Facebook.
In addition to taking payments, processing returns, issuing refunds, etc., in person, you can manage all the nuances that come with having both an online and physical storefront. For example, have customers pay online and pick up at your curbside. Likewise, you can accept online returns in person.
Phone, live chat, and email support are available 24/7.
If you have a storefront with the majority of your revenue coming from in-person sales, Shopify may not be the best choice. Shopify requires that its users upgrade to a higher plan to access general features such as advanced CRM and customized reports. You’ll also need to upgrade if you want to capture customer signatures on your digital device or customize your digital receipts.
Instead, consider Square for Retail, which is our recommended retail POS. Plus, it comes with a basic native ecommerce feature and easy-to-use store builder in its free plan. It also offers a free card reader with each Square account.
Check out our full Shopify POS review for more.
Toast: Best Touch-screen POS for Restaurants
Toast takes the lead when it comes to touch-screen POS systems for full-service restaurants. Its top-of-the-line order and table management features are designed to keep servers in constant communication with the kitchen, while handheld terminals ensure that servers are immediately notified whenever orders are ready or if an item is 86ed from the menu.
Also, the touch-screen KDS allows the back-of-house staff to keep track of all orders—whether they come from the dining room or from a third-party delivery app—and send notifications back to the waitstaff. And, all hardware, even the KDS, is industry-grade and built to withstand the heat of the kitchen.
Toast also offers detailed inventory management, an array of touch-screen hardware options, and flexible ordering tools—making it the best overall touch-screen POS for restaurants.
After careful evaluation, Toast earned an overall score of 4.10 out of 5 and received top points for ease of use, general features, and expert evaluation. However, the additional cost to use simple tools—such as inventory, employee management, loyalty, and gift cards—can make the system quite pricey. Moreover, the proprietary hardware, while great for restaurants that need it, makes the system pricier if you don’t.
Toast provides a powerful inventory management system, allowing you to keep an eye on your food costs, wastage, and menu profitability. It is not quite as advanced as Toast, however, as far as integrating with food suppliers for real-time pricing.
Toast allows you to create customer profiles that let you send digital receipts and collect and respond to feedback. Combine it with add-ons like Toast Loyalty which supports a customizable rewards program and Toast Marketing to create customized and targeted emails for rewarding regulars or enticing customers to return.
Allow employees to clock in and out to track hours, including breaks and overtime. Toast also offers its own payroll solution for an additional fee, or you can integrate with one of several restaurant payroll providers.
Many users like how Toast improves communication between front-of-house and back-of-house staff. When servers are using Toast’s handled tablets, menu item quantities are updated in real time, so they’re aware of 86s before taking a customer’s order. Likewise, servers are given a notification as soon as a course is out of the kitchen and are reminded about where it’s headed. Toast is also the only POS on this list that offers fully contactless ordering, allowing customers to order and pay from their smartphones.
Users on the $165 per month plan and higher can set up their own commission-free online ordering system. Toast also integrates with Grubhub, DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Caviar via Chowley.
Toast offers 24/7 phone, chat, and email support.
As a touch-screen POS, the biggest drawback for Toast is that it uses proprietary hardware, which not only takes away the flexibility of this type of POS system but also drives up the cost of running your business. This ties you to a possible long-term contract and to Toast’s in-house payment processing solution, preventing you from getting the best deals on transaction fees. For a restaurant POS that runs on iPads, consider Square for Restaurants.
Want to learn more about Toast? Check out our full Toast POS review.
Vend by Lightspeed: Best Touch-screen POS for Building Customer Loyalty
In the News: In March 2021, Lightspeed acquired Vend, giving Vend clients access to Lightspeed’s payments, ecommerce, and loyalty solutions. That means that now, if you become a Vend client, all of the branding will be Lightspeed Retail X series, though all of the Vend POS features and much of the user interface have remained the same.
Vend is an excellent option for brick-and-mortar retailers looking for a touch-screen POS that offers built-in customer and loyalty management with its Advanced Plan. Very few POS systems include loyalty programs, store credit, and layaway functions in their POS plans–it is typically an add on. Combined with its offline processing features and its ability to integrate with third-party processors and offer multiple payment options, Vend is a solid option for retailers.
It also rivals Square with its inventory features, so high-volume businesses that prefer alternative payment processor options to offset the higher subscription plan should consider using this system.
Vend earned a score of 4.02 out of 5, with perfect scores for general features and ease of use. For touch-screen features, Vend scored well on device flexibility, electronic signature capture, and customizable digital receipts availability. On the other hand, the software lost points for pricey subscription plans and limited features in the basic plans, subsequently preventing Vend from performing better in our ranking.
Real-time inventory tools are available from its basic plan. It allows users to upload and edit products in bulk, track variant bundles, and set custom low stock alerts and automatic reordering. It also lets you build a centralized catalog that can be accessed directly from the POS, back office, and mobile for easy management of multiple locations.
As a cloud-based system, users can manage their customer list across any integrated platform. Vend’s baseline plan includes CRM features such as creating customer profiles that track purchase history and contact information. With Vend’s Advanced plan, you get access to management tools for customer groups, gift cards, store credit, and a flexible loyalty program with customizable rewards and points.
Point of sale
Vend accepts all credit card payment types, as well as mobile payments, gift cards, layaways, and buy-now-pay-later plans.
This is available in its Standard plan and already comes with gift cards. Loyalty points information is available during checkout so that you can engage your customers more with great buying suggestions. Vend also offers a free customer-facing display app where customers can enroll in loyalty programs and enter their email addresses if they prefer getting their receipt via email.
Every Vend account comes with integrated payment processing that lets customers pay with all major credit and debit cards via swipe, tap, dip, sign or contactless technologies. You can choose to integrate with any of Vend’s integrated payment options (see comparison table for full list), or you can opt for Lightspeed Payments for Vend. By choosing Lightspeed Payments for Vend, not only will you get a lower monthly rate on your POS subscription, you will also receive a free contactless payment terminal, guided set-up, and a predictable flat rate pricing model.
Reporting and analytics
While Vend’s Lean and Standard plans only come with basic reporting, they do equip you with the basic reporting tools on customers, inventory, and sales. If you are looking for more advanced reporting options that allows you to filter data, create customer reports, see discounts analysis, view employee insights, explore seasonal trends, and analyze gift card performance, check out Vend’s Advanced and Enterprise plans.
Offers 24/7 phone support—in addition to live chat, email, and social media. Users can also sign up to Vend U for on-demand courses and training webinars.
While Vend has some great features, it does have a rather expensive baseline subscription ($119), and its base plans don’t include key features such as loyalty, custom reporting, and an ecommerce integration. This raises the question of Vend’s value-for-money, particularly for small business owners. So, if you prefer a touch-screen POS with more included tools at a lower price point, consider Lightspeed.
Check out our full Vend review for more details.
Mindbody: Best Touch-screen POS for Appointment Scheduling
Mindbody is a fantastic tablet POS system for appointment-based businesses with small inventories. Mindbody includes a custom-branded app that your customers can use to view your schedule and then book and purchase appointments, rooms, or classes. The software also includes reporting tools, an AI appointment management system, a fully integrated Virtual Wellness platform for virtual appointments and classes, and lead management tools.
Mindbody has four different platforms for four different types of businesses including Fitness, Spas, the Integrated Wellness, and Salons.
While Mindbody is a fully loaded option when it comes to appointment scheduling and management tools, it scored a 3.81 out of 5 on this guide. Mindbody does have top-notch CRM capabilities, an easy-to-use interface, and great customer reviews. However, it lost points due to its high price point, its primitive retail POS capabilities, and limited inventory management tools.
Sell goods and services, create inventory, track your stock, and take your sales anywhere with a mobile card reader and the Mindbody app. While perfect for simple sales and inventory tracking, Mindabody’s retail POS capabilities are limited, and you should consider Square POS plus Square Appointments if you have larger retail needs.
Never miss an appointment with an AI front desk system that sends appointment reminders/confirmation emails and texts, replies to client inquiries, and responds to missed calls and messages.
Customer Mobile App
Let customers download a fully branded app where they can view your schedule, book appointments, and pay upfront. This is not the only customer-facing app you get with Mindbody–you will also get to list your business and schedule on the Mindbody app. The Mindbody app has all of its clients and their offerings in one place, so customers can search for beauty and fitness offerings based on time and location.
View how your staff is performing and create contests and rewards to motivate their progress, view business sales and revenue performances, and view CRM insights. While Mindbody has great reporting for CRM and staff management, it does lack in inventory and sales reporting. For a more advanced reporting option, try Lightspeed.
View and manage your schedule from anywhere with the Mindbody business app or on any web browser. Cancel and change appointments, update your availability, and get real-time alerts every time you book an appointment.
Track new customers and turn them into regulars with tools for follow-up reminders, retention performance metrics, staff alerts and client-relationship tools, and reward strong performances.
There is a lot that Mindbody has to offer for salons, fitness studios, and other appointment-based businesses. However, it does lack in its retail capabilities, making it an unsuitable choice for service businesses that also have a large inventory and process a lot of in-person sales. It also has limited offline capabilities, and cannot process payments if the internet goes down, like you find with Square or Vend.
For businesses that need both retail and appointment management tools, our suggestion is to pair Square POS with Square Appointments so you can get the functionality of both a retail and appointment POS system without needing to integrate a third-party platform.
How We Evaluated Touch-screen POS Systems
In this review, we compared popular software that offers outstanding touch-screen POS solutions based on price and features. The best touch-screen POS systems should provide offline processing, capture digital signatures, and have device compatibility and access to mobile card readers.
We also considered general POS features, such as payment processing flexibility, remote and multilocation features, and the level of inventory and business management tools available in baseline plans. Finally, we considered our retail experts’ opinions based on their personal knowledge of each software.
All things considered, Square emerges as the best touch-screen POS for small businesses based on our evaluation criteria, receiving the highest overall score from our grading system for touch-screen POS software (4.65 out of 5). Our scoring system ranked our top 15 choices according to what we would personally recommend based on our experience testing different software and working with small businesses that use POS systems every day.
Click through the tabs below for a more detailed breakdown of our evaluation criteria:
20% of Overall Score
20% of Overall Score
30% of Overall Score
This section measures each POS system’s touch-screen features and weighs them against business requirements. We gave high marks for providers that offer offline transaction processing and the most compatibility with mobile card readers and different touch-screen devices. We also awarded points for features unique to touch-screen systems, such as digital signature capture and the ability to issue customized digital receipts. Finally, we recognized systems that provide unlimited device connections that can help process transactions faster and ring in more sales.
20% of Overall Score
Touch-screen POS systems should be easy to operate. We made sure that we highlight web-based and/or cloud-based solutions so that your data can be synchronized and accessed from every connected device. We also gave extra points for systems that provide round-the-clock support.
10% of Overall Score
Finally, we evaluated each system’s overall performance from a professional standpoint so that readers know how highly we would recommend the software and for what type of business it fits best. We took a detailed look at the quality of both general and industry-specific features, noting standout, as well as any missing, functions. We also weighed the software and hardware options against their cost to determine which system offers a good overall value for its price. I also awarded points based on my personal experience interacting with the software and the company’s customer support.
While there are a definitive number of business types, each business owner’s approach to growth is unique. The many different types of POS systems in the market are designed to offer a variety of features to match combinations of business concepts, size, objectives, and growth strategies. Whether your primary goal is to manage a vast inventory, handle multichannel sales, boost your loyalty program, or improve the quality of your table service through tableside ordering, a touch-screen POS system will help you get the job done efficiently.
If you aren’t sure yet where you need to be investing your money, the free POS tools offered by Square provide a great jumping-off point. Square offers just about everything a small retail shop or restaurant will need to get started, and it can scale with you. To try Square for free, click the button below.