First Data's Clover Mini Brings Big Ideas to Small Terminals

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First Data likens its new Clover Mini payment terminal to Apple's product line: it's a device made to fill a niche that everyone else thought was already being served.

The device, launched today, evolved from the Clover Station and Clover Mobile products introduced over the past two years. Sticking to the Apple metaphor, this device is the iPad Mini that serves the market for a product somewhere between an iPhone and the iPad.

The Clover Mini "could replace any terminal out there," said Peter Karpas, senior vice president of small and medium business solutions for First Data Corp. It is also designed to run as many as 100 applications that can handle business functions normally addressed by other devices.

For example, one app tracks employee work time, eliminating the need for a separate time clock while adding a feature designed to reduce employee fraud, Karpas said.

"Clover has a front-facing camera that takes a picture of those checking in, solving the theft of time that is a big problem for employers," Karpas said. Other apps handle pre-ordering for food, delivery management, wait-list management and special branding on receipts.

More than a year ago, First Data added small-business tools to its larger Clover Station terminal setup, and the Clover Mini expands upon that with its open market for app developers, Karpas said. The Clover Mini will also expand upon the loyalty technology First Data integrated into Clover tablets in July of 2014.

The terminal also has a built-in PIN pad, enabling it to accept chip-and-PIN card payments.

The Clover has been "a very adaptable machine in the market," said Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.

The Clover Mini's use of apps will appeal to merchants who want to engage their customers more prominently, Riley said. This is also a more appealing sales pitch than trying to get merchants to buy a new device simply to support EMV-chip cards.

"EMV in and of itself is going to be a bit of a mess when it really starts going," Riley said.  "Anything that can help along those [certification] lines will be helpful."

The Clover Mini supports magnetic stripe, EMV, NFC, Bluetooth and QR code payments, as well as various security layers, including First Data's TransArmor tokenization system.

Though the device is smaller than many iPad-based mobile point of sale systems, Karpas argues that it is less vulnerable to theft.

"If you have an iPad on the shelf as your POS, it could easily disappear because it can be used for so many other things," Karpas said. "The Clover Mini is one piece built for one purpose."

First Data developed a "safe way to protect your equipment" by building an analog solution into a digital product, Riley said.

"It's a great point that the Clover would be less attractive for theft, plus costs would be down because you wouldn't have the fixed overhead of that general-purpose iPad," Riley said.

The Mini costs about as much as an older single-purpose terminal, Karpas said. He would not disclose an exact price, saying distributors offer different prices based on applicable customer service offerings and other factors.

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