In 2003, a group of young computing experts established a software development company that soon revolutionized the mobile experience as we knew it.
That’s right, the Android operating system (OS), currently developed by Google, was first designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones. It’s now a staple on POS hardware terminals, kitchen display screens, and tableside tablets.
Three years ago, when Toast was just an idea, we knew that Android was the only operating system that would allow us to customize our software completely for restaurants.
Let’s delve into the benefits of Android POS software.
Android as a mobile operating system is known for being open and flexible - allowing developers to have more control over the software and app experience. Apple's closed environment enforces limitations not only on when and how an app makes it into the App store, but also on developers' flexibility when customizing the experience within that application.
What this means for restaurants: Android POS systems can offer an experience more tailored to the restaurant environment -- and more customization to a specific restaurant. Instead of forcing a restaurant's desired workflow to fit into what Apple apps will support, an Android POS app can adapt to the restaurant's needs.
Both Android and Apple offer regular software updates, and there have been frequent reports of Apple updates causing apps on iPhones, iPods, and iPads to break. In order to have a seamless experience for the restaurant, the POS company must get access to the new version of the OS, update and test the app, and then publish the update. The key difference between Android and iOS here is that iOS apps need to go through a review and approval process every time an update gets published to the app store.
What this means for restaurants: It's not uncommon for Apple to release an iOS update that causes an iPad POS system to break, while the POS company scrambles to develop an update and push it through the approval process. You may find emails or tweets from the POS company warning, "Don't install iOS 9, it breaks xyz and we're working on an update." With Android's open system, OS updates cause less of a disturbance and support a smoother overall operation.
Unlike iPad hardware, which is exclusively manufactured by Apple, Android tablets are provided by many different vendors. While Apple offers sleek hardware that consumers often favor, there are only a handful of very specific form factors available: 8-12" for iPads and 5" for iPod Touch. Android also comes in small form factors such as a 5" phones but scales to much larger form factors, upwards of 22". There are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of Android device models, which allows restaurants to select the combination of hardware that best matches their operational needs.
What this means for restaurants: Again this comes down to the flexibility afforded to restaurants, to adapt the technology - even the hardware size itself - to their specific needs. Often, quick-service restaurants focused on throughput will prefer a large form factor in order to fit as much onto a single screen, so staff can make selections faster. Meanwhile, a full-service restaurant (or especially a nightclub) will prefer a small format, without sacrificing functionality, to stay mobile and serve as many customers as possible without having to return to a central terminal.
Many of us at Toast are fans of the consumer products Apple offers. However, the reality is that we love Apple products because, as consumers, we are the users that Apple creates their products for. How the devices work, look, and feel is all based on consumer testing and for consumer applications. Meanwhile, many Android device manufacturers specialize in developing restaurant POS systems. This gives Android POS companies (like Toast), the unique opportunity to test many different hardware options until they find the option that is the best fit for supporting their software and for the chaotic restaurant environment.
What this means for restaurants: Android POS providers have the flexibility to choose from any number of vendors and products designed specifically for commercial use. This allows restaurants to get a system in place that is truly designed for their use and operations. Not only are Android devices more affordable than Apple products, but they are built for commercial use so they can withstand the wear and tear that is inevitable in a chaotic restaurant environment.