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.

Best iPad EPOS in the UK:

  • Vend – Best all-round inventory features for independent shops
  • Lightspeed – Well-balanced features for a modern, versatile app
  • Square – Most free features and plenty of upgrade options
  • Zettle – Ideal entry point for many small businesses
  • TouchBistro – Good user experience for small restaurants


Vend – excellent value for retailers

Best for: Inventory management and intuitive retail features

Pricing: £59+/mo

Suitable for: Retailers of all sizes

Vend
(4.3/5)

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 iPad POS screen

Vend POS interface on iPad.

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 first iPad licence

Lean: £59/mo (annual), £69/mo (monthly)

Standard: £79/mo (annual), £89/mo (monthly)

Advanced: £119/mo (annual), £139/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 and affordable retail POS solution, Vend is certainly considered one of the leading options.

Payment integrations: Klarna, Paymentsense, Square, SumUp, Windcave, Zettle


Lightspeed – versatile for restaurants and retail

Best for: Adaptable functions with choice of add-ons

Pricing: £29+/mo

Suitable for: Retail, any food-and-drink

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.

Photo: Lightspeed

Lightspeed iPad POS for retail and hospitality

The Lightspeed apps for hospitality and retail are different.

Lightspeed Restaurant has a neat table management overview (on the pricier plan) that can be customised, along with many other food-and-drink features to help you run the kitchen, bar, waiting and table areas. It also works offline, so internet outages aren’t going to be a problem.

Price per iPad licence

Retail: From £69 + VAT/mo (annual) depending on plan

Restaurant: From £26 + VAT/mo (annual) depending on plan

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 or click-and-collect (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 integrations: Lightspeed Payments, Paymentsense, SumUp, Zettle


Square – best free features for most sectors

Best for: Free all-round features with plenty of specialised add-ons

Pricing: Free

Suitable for: Retail shops, small food-and-drink, services, beauty salons

Square
(4/5)

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

Square’s POS apps form part of a comprehensive payment ecosystem that’s entirely free to use. The catch is you need to use it with Square’s 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.

The entirely free Square Point of Sale app is geared towards “all businesses”, but the hospitality-related features and inventory library make it particularly good for cafés as well as small shops.

Price per iPad licence

Point of Sale app: Free

Square for Restaurants: Free or £69 + VAT/mo

Square for Retail: Free or £49 + VAT/mo

Square Appointments: Free or from £29 + VAT/mo

You can, for example, add various product information, track stock levels, send invoices and manage staff permissions and time sheets.

Restaurants can upgrade to the iPad POS app for specialised food-and-drink features, retailers to Square for Retail, and various professionals to Square Appointments – all requiring a paid subscription for advanced features, but free plans are available.

If you log into your Square account in a browser, you can use a virtual terminal, online store builder, contract templates among many other business features 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 at an extra cost.

Payment integration: Square


Zettle – popular entry POS with card payments

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

Pricing: Free

Suitable for: Retail, small food-and-drink, services

Want to try it? The Zettle Go app is always free to use.

Zettle (previously iZettle) is the most popular POS system with mobile card reader for small businesses. Signing up gives you free access to the Zettle Go app and backend dashboard where you can create reports, manage employees, send invoices, and more.

The free app can be used on most mobile devices and works as a standalone system for a wide variety of small businesses.

Photo: Mobile Transaction

Zettle POS at a food stall.

The iPad app has a product library, transactions overview, basic sales data, barcode scanning (through iPad camera), stock counts and invoicing among other basic features. It is not an advanced app, which is great for simplicity but problematic when your business needs specialised features.

Licence price

Zettle Go app: Free

The free Go app is easy to use, friendly-looking and integrates seamlessly with Zettle 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.

If you get to a point where more advanced features are needed, you can still use Zettle Reader and its payment tools by integrating with another iPad POS app such as Tabology or Revel.

Payment integration: Zettle Reader


TouchBistro – smart and user-friendly for restaurants

Best for: User-friendliness and range of till features

Pricing: £49+/mo

Suitable for: Various food-and-drink

TouchBistro
(3.8/5)

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 (annual plan)

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.

Where online ordering is concerned, you can integrate with Uber Eats and Deliveroo through Deliverect (extra cost).

Payment integrations: Barclaycard, Paymentsense, Square

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:

  • Epos Now – Higher prices, but many types of till setups
  • SumUp Point of Sale – Previously Goodtill, pick-and-choose features
  • Shopify POS – Connected to your Shopify online store
  • Nobly – Simple, entry-level POS for small hospitality
  • Revel Systems – Expensive, but serious choice for hospitality

Looking for a more specific iPad POS system?