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 swiftly without interruptions. So how do you know which iPad POS system to choose?

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 2019.

Mobile Transaction’s top picks for iPad EPOS

  1. TouchBistro – Best till software 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 for a free system

1. TouchBistro for Restaurants

Best for: User-friendliness

Pricing: £49+/mo

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

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.

TouchBistro iPad held in hands

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

If using more than one iPad, or if 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: iZettle Reader, Square Reader, PayPal Here

2. Vend for Retail

Best for: Inventory management

Pricing: £49+/mo

Suitable for: Retailers of all sizes

Vend is one of the leading EPOS 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.

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. Photo: Vend

Vend’s comprehensive features include 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 and 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 the barcodes of products for inventory counts.

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

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

3. Lightspeed for Restaurants & Retail

Best for: Advanced functions

Pricing: £69+/mo

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

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 integrates online and face-to-face sales so you can run your business from one account.

Lightspeed POS counter view

Lightspeed is particularly suited 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 seamlessly. It also has the option to create self-service menus that customers can use to place 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 functions 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 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 for Hospitality, Retail & Services

Best for: Budget-conscious merchants

Pricing: Free-£39+/mo

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

iZettle logo

iZettle Go review (general)

iZettle Pro review (hospitality)

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.

intelligentpos point of sale system with iZettle card reader

Barista using iZettle in a café. Photo: iZettle

On the iZettle Go Plus 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, so the extra cost is for the ecommerce features.

Then there is the iZettle Pro system, which is more comprehensive than the Go app, but its features are exclusively adapted for food-and-drink businesses. For instance, the table plan allows you to attach food orders to customers in a restaurant.

Price per iPad licence

iZettle Go app: Free

iZettle Pro for hospitality: £39 + VAT/mo

Both the free Go app and paid Pro app are easy to use, friendly-looking and integrate seamlessly with iZettle Reader payments. With Pro, you only pay 1.25% for iZettle Reader payments, while the free app charges 1.75% per card transaction. 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 for Cafés, Retail & Services

Best for: Free features

Pricing: Free

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

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.

Square Point of Sale app on iPad

Product menu in the Square Point of Sale app. Photo: Square

Square Point of Sale is geared towards “all businesses”, but its hospitality-related features and product library make it particularly good for food-and-drink as well as small shops.

Price per iPad licence

Free software

1.75% per card payment

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

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-value alternatives suitable for UK businesses:

  • iKentoo – Excellent for offline functionality
  • Epos Now – Higher prices, but many POS options to pick from
  • Nobly – Very similar to iZettle Pro
  • Kounta – User-friendly with option to use on Android tablets
  • Goodtill – Pick-and-choose features
  • Shopify POS – Best for ecommerce integration