Android POS Systems and iPad POS Systems: How They Compare

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See how Android POS systems compare to iPad POS. A breakdown of the features of each and which environments each are best for.

Cloud-based POS systems are becoming a popular choice for restaurant owners who realize the solutions that a cloud system can provide, such as overall cost savings, increased mobility within the restaurant through handheld devices, remote access to data, and more frequent feature updates.

In addition to all the pros cloud systems provide, they also offer mobile tablet options to increase efficiency and improve guest interactions. When restaurateurs do turn to the tablet POS market, they often find a sea of iPad-based systems due to Apple's popularity among consumers. But is a consumer-grade solution the right answer for the rigorous and widely varying restaurant environment?

Android POS systems may be more suitable for the restaurant environment because of the durability and flexibility offered by Android software and hardware.

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The Importance of Flexibility in the Restaurant Industry

No two restaurants are the same. From concept and ingredients to the kitchen or checkout workflow, there are hundreds of customizations a restaurant staff may need in order to improve every aspect of operations. In the fast-paced restaurant environment, a few-second delay in closing out a check can be truly felt, just as missing an order or hiring too few bussers for closing can ruin an experience or a sale.

When identifying our own customers' needs at Toast, we've seen dozens of specific customization requests — like a medium kitchen printer font, larger POS screen buttons, and control over sharing tips with non-tipped employees. These adaptations to our product have allowed us to keep our customers happy as they do the same for their guests.

Each restaurant must be unique in its technology needs and operational workflow to live up to guest expectations. Ultimately, flexibility is a core feature of POS systems for restaurants.

How do Android POS and iPad POS compare? Here are four essential features that distinguish these products.

Android POS Systems vs. iPad POS Systems

1. A Highly Customizable Experience

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 — along with more customization options for each 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 a restaurant's needs.

2. Speedy Software Updates

Both Android and Apple offer regular software updates, however, there have been frequent reports of Apple updates causing apps on iPhones, iPods, and iPads to break. In order to have a seamless experience, 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 to the app store, making the issues your restaurant is experiencing much slower to fix.  

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 as 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.

3. Flexibility in Hardware Form Factors

While Apple offers beautiful 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. Meanwhile, there are dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of Android device models. Android also comes in small form factors such as a 5" phones but scales to much larger form factors, upwards of 22".

What this means for restaurants: Again, this comes down to the flexibility afforded to restaurants to adapt technology - even the hardware size itself - to their specific needs. Often, quick-service restaurants focused on output 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 nightclub will prefer a small format to stay mobile and serve as many customers as possible without having to return to a central terminal or sacrifice functionality.

4. Durable Yet Affordable Hardware

Your household may veer toward Apple electronics for their sleek design or user experience, but your home doesn’t have extreme heat, and you’re probably much less likely to spill drinks on your iPad or drop it on the floor in your home. The daily wear and tear on these devices in restaurants is very different from the expected consumer use of devices like iPads. Meanwhile, many Android device manufacturers specialize in developing restaurant POS solutions that have the ability to stand the test of time and a damaging environment, while also being more affordable than Apple products.

What this means for restaurants: Android POS hardware is more reliable in the face of the demanding restaurant environment, and sometimes built specifically to handle the extreme daily usage. On top of that, Android tablets are much more affordable than their Apple counterparts — both upon first installation and in the case of replacing devices that are dropped and broken.

There are hundreds of things that can go wrong in a restaurant, but your technology shouldn’t be one of them. Your POS system should be reliable, durable, affordable, and most importantly, built for the industry.     

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