Large, stationary terminal POS systems have been a regular fixture in restaurants and brick-and-mortar stores for years representing an older paradigm of retail and hospitality operation and consumer purchasing behavior. Today’s merchants, however, are recognizing the increasing customer demand for easier and more flexible ordering and payment options, as the Mobile Point-of-Sale (mPOS) Payments segment is expected to reach 94.7m users by 2027. A new generation of mobile point-of-sale systems takes customer service to a new level, reducing long waits for checkout, offering more customer control in ordering, and increasing cashless payment options.
Handheld smart devices specifically designed to act as mobile ordering systems and cash registers not only make it easier to deliver prompt, accurate customer service, but offer valuable real-time data for merchants on inventory, customer preferences, and performance. New mPOS systems also enable mobile merchants to serve their customers right where they are – whether that’s in a field, a stadium, or a drive-thru. Additionally, since many mPOS systems are simple to set up and relatively affordable, they are opening a new segment of smaller businesses – like food trucks, festival vendors, and mom-and-pop operations – to the ability to offer customers easy cashless, onsite payment options.
The Importance of the Display in mPOS
Stationary terminal POS systems typically have large a standalone screen, a separate barcode scanner, a tabletop receipt printer, and a credit card reader with wired connections for power and data transmission. Conversely, today’s mPOS systems are totally wireless and must combine all of these functions into a form factor more typically associated with a smartphone or tablet.
As engineers struggle to cram all that functionality into a single device the display takes on greater importance for the user and becomes more central to the design. Displays that are difficult to read can lead to errors and frustration on the part of the vendor and customer. Those that drain the device’s battery can lead to a power-down of the device, temporarily halting all mobile sales. Designers looking to differentiate their products should focus on displays that improve on mPOS performance, reliability, and ease of use.
So how can a designer make a smart choice in display technology for their mPOS system? The following are a few key considerations to take into account.
Key Considerations in Choosing Your Display Technology for mPOS
1. Use Case
The most important consideration in choosing the best display technology for your mPOS design is the intended use cases. Vendors working food trucks, indoor retail, drive-throughs, sit-down restaurants or outdoor markets and festivals will use their mPOS device in unique ways that smart designers will optimize for. Will the vendor be carrying the unit all day, making weight a factor? Will the vendor be near a docking station making charging easy during a shift, or will they need the device to last all day on a single charge? Consider what benefits are most important to your end user and what challenges they may face in their daily customer interactions.
Does your customer need a touchscreen or will they be using physical keypads? What kind of resolution and refresh rate are needed to effectively display device information (they may not need the highest resolution possible, but could do fine with a medium resolution offering)? What kind of mPOS size would be most needed? What kind of battery life will they need based on their environment? Understanding these answers ensures you can make the best design decisions when it comes to display technologies.
2. Sunlight Readability
Once you’ve identified your target use cases, one of the most important factors to examine where your device will be used. Devices that will be used in indoor environments generally lend themselves to traditional LCDs since the display does not have to compete with the brightness of the sun unless your concern is battery life (see power consumption below).
For outdoor applications like festivals, markets and outdoor dining, those LCDs can be extremely difficult to read. If a server, merchant, or customer can’t read your display in an outdoor setting, it can lead to serious potential errors and frustration. It may eliminate a wide sector of potential users, from festival vendors, to restaurants with al fresco dining, to pop-up stores and food trucks. Traditional LCD makers compensate by pumping up the brightness, but that has the downside of much quicker battery drain. New display technologies like reflective LCD (such as LCD 2.0) and ePaper handle outdoor lighting significantly better than traditional LCDs because these displays are enhanced by the sun. This leads to better contrast and color saturation improving the user experience throughout the transaction process.
As you are considering display technology options, note that some manufacturer specs are not easy to compare, as most display technologies are tested in pitch-black environments. If you are truly concerned about how your mPOS will perform in an outdoor setting, you want to specifically look at ambient contrast ratio, which describes how a display performs in sunny settings.
3. Device Size
When you’re carrying around an mPOS device all day, every ounce and inch add up when it comes to ease of use. As mPOS technologies improve, merchants are expecting more for their systems, including a form factor that is easy to handle for both vendor and customer. Particularly important for settings like stadiums, festivals, and outdoor venues, the lighter and more compact the mPOS, the less strain on the user.
Interestingly, display technologies offer a wide range in thickness and size, making these specs a consideration in the overall footprint of your final product. By utilizing display technology that is sleeker and also more power efficient (enabling a smaller battery), you can create the most compact final mPOS product possible, lightening the load on your end user and potentially impacting a customer’s purchasing decision in your system over a competitor. Backlit displays like OLED and transmissive LCD’s generally are thicker due to the backlight unit. Reflective displays, like LCD 2.0 and ePaper, generally are thinner and therefore can help create a more compact design.
4. Power Consumption
Display technologies offer a range of potential impact to your product’s battery life. You don’t want to miss this spec when considering display selection since few factors impact a customer’s purchasing decision as much as battery life. We routinely hear from customers that half or more of their device power budget is devoted to the display. An mPOS system’s battery life determines how many devices a vendor will need to purchase, which can be a particularly important decision to smaller companies working on tighter budgets. Additionally, in a mobile setting, if a mPOS device dies while in use, it can effectively cut off all transactions for an extended period of time, which can mean serious negative impact to a company’s sales. Vendors looking at mPOS solutions take battery life seriously, so product designers must consider this when selecting a display technology.
Newer display technology like LCD 2.0 consumes only 10% of the power of traditional backlit LCDs. Rather than fighting against ambient and sunlight, these displays reflect the available lighting for better readability in that particular setting. This significantly lessens the draw on the battery and makes for an overall more power-efficient mPOS system. From a product design perspective, this allows you to either offer longer battery life or use that unused potential to offer additional product features.
Reflective LCD Offers More than Ever
Reflective LCD is an umbrella term used to describe the newest LCD technology that incorporates ambient or front-lit reflective LCDs as opposed to the traditional backlit-only options. LCD 2.0 involves a lightguide film that bonds to the front of the display, below the cover lens, using a single LED light bar to mix light evenly throughout a screen. The result is an ultra-low-power, high-resolution display with a quick refresh rate and consistent color specs. LCD 2.0 display modules are compatible with standard LCD drivers, which makes it easy to drop into any design that would otherwise rely on a standard power-hungry backlit LCD.