Mobile Payments vs. Mobile POS: What Is the Difference? Technology

Technological advance has brought with it a new vocabulary of terms.  These terms apply to existing practices that have upgraded, which can make their meanings can become a bit cloudy.  Some phrases can be intermingled and used in the same context, particularly by those not fluent in the application of the new terminology.

Mobile POS

Mobile point of sale or POS systems are focused on the business collecting payment using mobile devices.  Some fast-food companies use this type of system to collect payment from customers waiting in the drive-thru lane. Dry cleaning mobile phone software can help make these deliveries go more smoothly. Street vendors can also use the portable system to collect payment through a card reader or document cash purchases with a mobile device that travels with them to different locations. 

Because the system is mobile, it allows the business to go to the customer rather than waiting for them to visit a physical store or website. It also can allow for changes in customer preferences and a variety of mobile payment options.

Mobile Payments

This term seems simple enough to deconstruct, but it is often confused with or used in exchange for mobile point of sale.  While it may seem like the terms would have a similar meaning, they are actually quite different, except for the fact that they both refer to mobile applications.

Mobile payment is less about the payment and more about the option.  Mobile wallets offered by larch technology companies such as Android and Apple are one kind of portable payment option for customers seeking to purchase goods or services with their own device.

Another payment option is peer-to-peer payments or P2P.  This option is structured around money transfer platforms.  PayPal, TransferWise, and Venmo are mobile money transfer options.  These three options are all focused on making the purchasing experience more accessible for customers.

One reason for the confusion with these two terms is that they can intersect during the purchasing process. For example, a customer at the farmer’s market could pay for their goods with Android Pay while the vendor collects the payment via a mobile device.

While one term is focused on how the business collects payments, the other is focused on how customers choose to pay; these two terms have a relationship.  It is one that is likely to evolve with technology and customer preferences.


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