Clover designs a new portable tablet cash register for First Data

Payment processing giant First Data may not be known for its design chops, but that’s why it bought Clover Networks, a Silicon Valley startup that re-envisioned the staid, old point-of-sale (POS) terminal as a sleek tablet system that takes its design cues more from Apple than from Verifone. First Data has been selling Clover’s countertop register for seven months, but on Tuesday it announced a new mobile product that does away with the stand and cash drawer and turns the POS system into a handheld slate.

Clover Mobile has a magnetic stripe reader for standard card transactions, but also contains a slot for next-generation credit cards supporting the Chip-and-PIN transactions that are already standard overseas but arriving on U.S. shores this time next year. To support Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard transactions, the tablet has an embedded near-field communications (NFC) radio.

Image: First Data

Image: First Data

The tablet runs the regular Clover Station software on an Android-based operating system, and it has access to the Clover app store, where retailers can download POS, inventory and marketing software. The slate can link to a larger network of other Clover devices and peripherals such as a cash drawer, or it can function as a stand-alone device and even has an optional thermal receipt printer that clips to a belt loop. [company]First Data[/company] said it is currently running a pilot program with some of its merchants, but Clover Mobile will be generally available to its customers in 2015.

While the portable payments terminal definitely takes aim at Square’s core small business customer base, Clover Mobile is probably more a means for First Data to protect its existing turf than expand into new markets. As Square and other new payment processors expand into bigger brick-and-mortar retail locations and restaurants, the traditional banks and payments processors trying to innovate with software and design.

In short, they’re rethinking the clunky old keypad terminals they’ve always sold. How a new focus on design and the interface is spreading to established industries like retail and automotive will be a big topic at Gigaom’s Roadmap conference in San Francisco next week.

We’re already seeing several examples of that trend. Last week a new startup called Poynt, led by Google’s former mobile payments head, launched it’s own re-envisioned POS terminal, while [company]NCR[/company] has its own tablet-based payment processing system called Silver.