The iPad has proven itself effective for web-based point of sale (POS) systems. What’s more, it looks smart and is cheaper than purpose-built touchscreen tills, making it a more realistic entry point for small businesses than Windows-based POS systems.

That said, you want a service that resolves software bugs quickly and offers prompt support so you can run the business uninterruptedly. So how do you choose an iPad POS system?

There are many providers out there, and we are not convinced they will all survive the competition in the next few years. Here, we consider the five best iPad-based till systems for small businesses in 2020.

Here’s a round-up of the best iPad EPOS in the UK:

  1. TouchBistro – Best value for small-to-mid-sized restaurants
  2. Vend – Best all-round inventory features for any retail business
  3. Lightspeed – As advanced as it gets for the price
  4. iZettle – Ideal entry point for most small businesses
  5. Square – Most features in a free till system

1. TouchBistro – smart & user-friendly for restaurants

Best for: User-friendliness and all-round value

Pricing: £49+/mo

Suitable for: Restaurants, quick-service, pubs, night clubs, breweries, food trucks, general food-and-drink

TouchBistro
(4.5/5)

Want to try it? TouchBistro offers a free demo and free 7-day trial without registration + 21 more free days with registration.

TouchBistro is the restaurant EPOS that comes out most favourably in our tests of iPad POS. It is highly user-friendly with lots of genuinely helpful features designed to make your day-to-day sales and management easier.

Image: TouchBistro

TouchBistro is perhaps the most user-friendly restaurant POS for iPad.

If using more than one iPad, or offline capabilities are important, it is necessary to set up a local computer network with an iMac or Mac server to keep them synced at all times. The system only runs on Apple devices, although it is possible to connect receipt printers, cash drawer and other hardware needed at your point of sale.

Price per iPad licence

1st: £49 + VAT/mo
2nd-3rd: £45 + VAT/mo each
4-9th: £40 + VAT/mo each
10+: Custom quote

Although more than plenty of settings and features are included in the TouchBistro app, it is possible to integrate with certain partner apps. For example, you can get advanced customer loyalty features through a third-party integration, but this comes at an additional monthly cost.

Payment integration: Barclaycard, Paymentsense, Square Reader

2. Vend – excellent value for retailers

Best for: Inventory management and intuitive retail features

Pricing: £49+/mo

Suitable for: Retailers of all sizes

Vend on price tag
(4.5/5)

Want to try it? Vend offers a no-commitment free 14-day trial.

Vend is one of the leading till software providers for retail shops in the UK. It’s a powerful system that caters to all store sizes, from independent small shops to big high street chains.

Photo: Vend

Vend POS on tablet and laptop

Vend can be run from an iPad – pictured with the Windfall stand – but also a Windows PC or Mac.

Vend’s comprehensive features cover everything you need for inventory management, a detailed product library, customised reports and the ability to take payments offline. The analytics let you dig deep into sales, view employee performance data and track how individual products are performing.

Price per iPad licence

Lite: £49/mo (annual), £59/mo (monthly)

Pro: £69/mo (annual), £89/mo (monthly)

Per extra licence: £39/mo (annual), £49/mo (monthly)

Vend works on iPad, Mac and PC, but not smartphones, so selling on the go will require an iPad or laptop. There is a ‘Scanner by Vend’ app for smartphones, which can be used to scan product barcodes or inventory counts.

If you’re looking for the most advanced retail POS solution, Vend is certainly considered one of the leading options.

Payment integration: iZettle Reader, PayPal Here, SumUp Air, Square Reader, Paymentsense, Windcave, Worldpay

3. Lightspeed – feature-rich for restaurants & retail

Best for: Advanced functions for the price

Pricing: £69+/mo

Suitable for: Retail, restaurants, quick-service, pubs, night clubs, breweries, food trucks, hotels, other food-and-drink

Want to try it? Get a 14-day free trial of Lightspeed

Lightspeed is an adaptable EPOS solution with Retail and Restaurant packages to suit small and medium-sized businesses. It can handle multiple store locations and can connect online and face-to-face sales for a seamless multichannel business.

Lightspeed POS counter view

Lightspeed is good for full-service restaurants, bars, quick-service businesses and cafés.

Lightspeed Restaurant has a neat table management overview that can be customised, along with many other food- and drink-specific features that help you run the kitchen, bar, waiting and table areas. It also has the option to create self-service menus that customers can use for placing food orders.

Price per iPad licence

Retail: From £69 + VAT/mo

Restaurant: From £79 + VAT/mo

Lightspeed Retail gives you advanced, store-related functions such as detailed inventory management and customer loyalty profiles so you can anticipate what to offer regular customers. If a customer can’t pick up a product, the system allows you to create and print delivery documents so you can ship it to them directly and avoid losing their business.

The ability to integrate with an online store (extra costs apply) makes this a good solution for businesses aiming to sell through as many channels as possible. The ecommerce options even include tools to increase online exposure.

Payment integration: iZettle Reader, certain PCI-compliant card machines

4. iZettle – popular in hospitality, retail & services

Best for: Budget-conscious merchants who want the easiest solution

Pricing: £0-£29+/mo

Suitable for: Hospitality, cafés, bars, pubs, other food-and-drink, retail shops, beauty salons, services

iZettle
(4/5)

Want to try it? The iZettle Go app is always free to use, and you can get a free trial of iZettle Food & Drink.

iZettle is the most popular POS system with mobile card reader for small businesses in the UK. Signing up gives you free access to the iZettle Go app and backend dashboard where you can create reports, manage employees, send invoices, and more. The free app can be used on most newer mobile devices and works as a standalone system for a wide variety of small businesses.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

iZettle POS at a food stall.

On the iZettle E-commerce plan for £29 a month, you get iZettle’s very own ecommerce platform that is automatically integrated with face-to-face sales. However, the POS app on this plan is the same as the free iZettle Go app.

Then there is the iZettle Food and Drink system, which is more comprehensive than the Go app, but its features are exclusively adapted for cafés, small quick-service restaurants, food trucks and other small food businesses. For instance, you can manage multiple orders and create food and drink menus for the till.

Price per iPad licence

iZettle Go app: Free

iZettle Food & Drink: £29 + VAT/mo

Both the free Go app and paid Pro app are easy to use, friendly-looking and integrate seamlessly with iZettle Reader payments. There is one fixed rate for all card payments: 1.75% per transaction through the card reader. Various equipment bundles are on offer with e.g. receipt printer, barcode scanner and cash drawer.

Payment integration: iZettle Reader

5. Square Point of Sale – best free features for most sectors

Best for: Free all-round features with plenty of extra tools

Pricing: Free

Suitable for: Small shops, cafés, other small food-and-drink businesses, professional services, beauty salons

Want to try it? The Square Point of Sale app is free to use without commitment.

Square Point of Sale is a comprehensive POS system – considering it’s entirely free to use. The catch is you need to use it with Square Reader and not other card machines. This is not bad at all if you’re good with a competitive, fixed card rate for all cards without the hassle of a contract or monthly fees (there are no hidden fees).

Photo: Square

Square Point of Sale on iPad

Product menu in the Square Point of Sale app.

Square Point of Sale is geared towards “all businesses”, but the hospitality-related features and inventory library make it particularly good for cafés as well as small shops. Restaurants can upgrade for Square for Restaurants for more food-and-drink features, requiring a paid subscription.

Price per iPad licence

Free software

1.75% per card payment

Among other things, you can add various product information and prices, track stock levels, send invoices and add staff accounts with differing access settings.

If you log into your Square account through a browser, you can use a virtual terminal also included in the system.

For more advanced tools and systems, you can integrate the Square account with a long list of partner software such as Vend and Xero (which you pay for separately).

Payment integration: Square Reader

Honourable mentions

While our top five list above covers the most trusted iPad till software, there are plenty other options worth mentioning. Out of all the iPad POS we’ve researched, these are some of the best alternatives for UK businesses:

  • Square for Restaurants – Hospitality POS with Square payments
  • Epos Now – Higher prices, but many POS options
  • Nobly – Similar to iZettle Food & Drink
  • Kounta – User-friendly with option to use on Android tablets
  • Goodtill – Pick-and-choose features
  • Shopify POS – Best for ecommerce integration