back to article PayPal turns smartphones into checkout tills

PayPal has announced a card reader for Android and iOS phones, turning them into mobile payment systems. Called PayPal Here, the triangular device plugs into the phone via a jack and allows merchants to swipe credit cards and accept PayPal payments. The accompanying Here app also allows the phone's camera to scan and process …

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Pint

What I don't get

Is how these things get stuff into a phone by plugging them into an output (headphone) socket.

Do the phones have some kind of HF filter that allows out-of-audio-band signals to be transmitted back into the socket as input ?

What dread Witchery is this?

Pint. It's Friday.

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Re: What I don't get

...you do know, right, that phones have a different type of 'headphone' jack than what you're thinking of?

Along with the usual TRS arrangement for stereo audio, there's an additional ring that's used for microphone input, so that you can plug a headset into the same jack. (They're also a millimeter narrower than what you're thinking of -- 2.5mm vs the 3.5mm width of a typical input-only headphone jack.)

Hope this helps --

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Silver badge
Pint

Re: What I don't get

Seems you drank too much already.

Most phones have more than 1 connector; the bit where you charge it for example. However; don't be fooled (a lot of people seem to be): this isn't merely a power connector; its actually power fed over USB (micro USB). And I'm sure you know what you can do with an USB connection...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What I don't get

"And I'm sure you know what you can do with an USB connection..."

Yes, quite a lot - assuming you have one .... and, yes, iPhone, I'm looking at you!

If this is true then it could be schadenfreude time for all us non-iPhone smartphone users who get continually irritated by the way world+dog puts iPhone connectors on devices.

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Ogi

Re: What I don't get

Yeah, but if you read about this in detail, you will see that they mention that it uses the headphone jack of the phone.

It is true, most phone headphone sockets are longer than usual. They accept the usual thee-ring headphone jack, and also the 4-ring "hands-free" jack, which has an extra ring for microphone input.

I haven't seen the jack of this paypal addition, but I presume it uses the mic jack to send signals to the phone via some modulation. You should be able to do low-speed full duplex with this setup.

Also, headphone jacks are far more resilient than mini-usb jacks, being designed for repeated insertion/removal.

I wish they didn't standardise on the mini-usb connector for charging though. It really wasn't designed in mind for constant replugging. My last two phones gave up the ghost because the mini-usb jack broke due to repeated plugging in and out during the day for charging.

Better if they had standardised on the headphone jack for power (perhaps even longer plug, with 5 rings?) although then you could not listen to music while charging without a splitter...

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Re: What I don't get

According to the image at https://www.paypal.com/webapps/mpp/credit-card-reader (click the free card reader button, can't direct link to it) it's a 3-conductor plug hence the mystery (in my head, anyway).

If it were TRSM (Tip Ring Send *Mic* ? Just made that up) I'd not think twice about it :oD

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Charging on the headphone plug: not a good idea

I do not want a headphone plug with 5V/1A present anywhere -- and neither should you.

On the one hand, it won't do anything good for the DAC to have that shorted across a signal line on the plug's way in or out of the socket -- sure, you can add protection circuitry, but when you've got so many better options, doing so throws good money after bad.

On the other hand, 5V at 1A isn't enough to do any real harm, but it's sure enough to upset a toddler who sticks the plug in his mouth or similar, and exposing any kind of significant voltage or amperage to careless fingers et cetera is considered a Bad Thing in any case.

And on the gripping hand, what happens when you stick a plug like this into a socket that isn't expecting it? Great question! -- do you really want to find out the hard way? I sure don't. And, yeah, again, you can come up with some kind of weird proprietary keyed plug/socket combo so people won't blow up their MP3 players with it, but again, you've got so many better options than this one that there's really no good reason to go to the extra effort.

Special to Brokejack Mountain: The reason you're having problems with Micro-USB sockets has nothing in particular to do with the sockets. As the actress said to the bishop: use less insertion force.

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Re: What I don't get

A four-conductor plug of the sort you're thinking of is correctly described as TRRS (tip, ring, ring, sleeve).

As for the picture: Could be TRS with only one of the stereo sides, since it's not going to need both for digital communication; could be some web goober just Photoshopped in a plug of the right sort, into what looks to be a pretty thoroughly cooked image to begin with. In any case, I wouldn't expect it accurately to represent technical aspects of what you get when you sign up for PayPal Here.

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Ogi

Re: Charging on the headphone plug: not a good idea

If the jack is intelligent enough to facilitate digital communication (which here is being used for Paypal's little item) I see little reason why the charger would not supply power until properly negotiated with the phone. Till then don't put any power down the jack.

That solves all the issues you mentioned in one swoop, except the shorting of the pins of the DAC, which I've never had an issue with, but I've only put 48V down it, and low current, not 1A (an interface to the phone system that malfunctioned). I agree that this would require more intelligence in the charger. Perhaps detecting a blip in current usage and cutting power, or just have the DAC protected. Usually they should go through high-resistance isolation transformers anyway, not be directly wired to the pins.

And I hardly use any insertion force, usually they work loose due to sitting plugged in, or moved about while plugged in. Usually it is the removal, where some cables have really strong notches that cause it to fail.

Not to mention the connectors are flimsy as hell. The cynic in me thinks the deliberately make them like that so you can't have a phone work more than 2-3 years. Not to mention there are a right PITA to get the right orientation in the dark, or when fumbling in the car.

If you ask my opinion, I wish they'd bring back the old (larger) Nokia charging connectors. Those seemed to work really well, fit in any direction, don't fall out or break contact, and I never had a connector failure. Plus almost everyone made compatible connectors anyway.

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Re: Charging on the headphone plug: not a good idea

Sure, I guess you could put together a super-complicated charger like you're talking about, but I've got an easier and cheaper solution: just charge from a Micro-USB socket instead.

Yeah, it really is a better way, especially since the headphone/mic jack isn't "intelligent" at all in the way you're talking about; it's just mono in, stereo out, and ground, without any negotiation capability whatsoever. (Why would you expect any different out of a socket that's intended to accept headphones? The basic design hasn't changed since it was invented in the first place!)

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a bit of protection circuitry behind the jack, but I wouldn't expect there to be much, because nobody uses that kind of connector any more for anything that can't safely be plugged into a headphone jack -- you sometimes see it used for power on old stuff from the 70s and early 80s, but never on anything newer unless maybe cheap Chinese crap no one in his right mind would buy. (And anyone who takes a male TS plug from a crusty old 9VAC wall wart, and sticks it in a headphone jack, deserves to let the smoke out anyway.) The connector is just not meant for power -- leaving aside all else, you can short a TRS plug by looking at it crosswise -- and no one sensible is going to listen when you try to convince them otherwise.

(And good luck getting anyone to stuff a 2mm two-conductor barrel jack, which is what I think you mean, into phones which nowadays are around 5-7mm thick and getting thinner. If you're talking about a connector even larger than that, well, good luck, Grandpa...)

As for your problems with the Micro-USB socket, I don't know what to tell you other than that nobody I know has problems like that, despite the increasing ubiquity of the format. If the cable's dragging out the guts of the socket or something, maybe you should try slightly less cheap cables. Less extraction force, maybe?

Finally, a useful note: The USB standard specifies that plug-ends with tactile features, such as an inset or bumped-out USB logo or similar, shall have the tactile feature on only one side of the plug surround, specifically on the same side that's 'up' orientation for the connector itself -- that is, if the tactile feature's facing up, so is the connector. I'm not as familiar with the part of the standard describing how the socket should be implemented, but based on experience I suspect it's similar -- that is, when the device is facing upward, so is the socket. Combine this knowledge with your body's inbuilt proprioception capability (that is, knowing where its parts are in relation to its other parts), and you've got the problem solved -- get the device and the cable into known orientation, each in one hand with index finger tip on the connector; bring fingertips together; move fingertips out of the way and complete the last half-inch or so of the connection.

The trick works great in the dark, Parkinson's sufferers and others with fine motor control problems possibly excepted; it may not help you while driving, but what the hell are you doing screwing around with cables when you should be driving in the first place? Charging your phone is less important than not killing somebody in a traffic accident!

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Breakages in 3...2....1

It's a brilliant idea - the data will go in via the 3rd (control) pin btw @ge.

What bothers me though is that the free-standing/swivelling aspect of the device combined with the offset slider and less-than-perfect handling could well result in quite a few pads suffering from weakened holes and cracks on the PCB.

I'll be interested in signing up for this, let me dump my $50+/mth "traditional" bank merchant system.

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Re: Breakages in 3...2....1

"I'll be interested in signing up for this, let me dump my $50+/mth "traditional" bank merchant system."

And then you'll be hitching your fate to PayPal, which doesn't exactly have a reputation as the most transparent or the most friendly of merchant service providers.

They've reached the point where there's no new business model left for them except to copy other people--in this case, Square, who's been doing the exact same thing for a while now. And who, it must be said, has a rather more transparent set of Ts and Cs.

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Re: Breakages in 3...2....1

>I'll be interested in signing up for this, let me dump my $50+/mth "traditional" bank merchant system

And you'll be dumped by people like me if it doesn't work with Visa. Or I might just avoid you on general principle for using PayPal.

Recently had another experience with PayPal, that I loathe. My vendor (etsy.com-based) meant to refund me shipping but instead refunded me the whole transaction on a Visa-through-Paypal payment.

I was fine with re-paying, but after I got my refund. Don't wanna pay twice.

Ordinarily, Visa should have seen a refund quickly. Uh, no. Not with Paypal. First Paypal refunds itself. Quickly, I assume. Then eventually, after some biz days, it supposedly turns around and tells Visa. Then it says that the refund is waiting for Visa. "Not our fault, guv. Visa's. Could take a month. Not our fault". Plus, I am on the line debating this with PayPal who I have no formal relationship with, unlike my bank's Visa.

Bottom line: 2 1/2 weeks from refund to transaction post in my Visa account. Can you guess whose bank account was collecting interest?

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Here is looking forward

to all those chargebacks you will receive if you use this device in the uk...

Good old magstripe. this device will make a nice paperweight in a year.

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IT Angle

So will it be available in the UK?

Is it even relevant to the UK considering it uses magnetic stripe...?

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Meh

handy...

it would be very handy for us. the traditional chip and pin reader and fees are too prohibitive for the small amount of card transactions we handle.

lets hope it does become available in the uk, but it will have to be a chip reader version.... then I bet we will have to pay for the device, then a monthly fee on top !!

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FAIL

Chip and pin

Judging from the paypal promo video, this looks like it just uses the magnetic strip and then users sign on the screen with their sausage sized finger.

No support for chip and pin and no paper signature to verify, I reckon the chargeback rate from this one will be horrendous.

Without chip and pin i just can't see this being widely adopted, which is a shame, cos anything that reduces transaction and terminal costs for small merchants is sorely needed.

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Question ..

So how do I, the customer, know that the thing reading my card and the app on the phone are genuine PayPal Here apps? It would be a doddle for a scammer to create identical stuff with all the PayPal styling. I might as well just hand them my card details and PIN and save them the bother.

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Stop

Re: Question ..

Nothing. Plus the scam software will ask for a pin and a signature. Might as well just hand £20 notes to people.

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If you don't think you can trust this merchant

then why did you just hand him your credit card at all, you damned numpty?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you don't think you can trust this merchant

I can trust the merchant all I like. What I may not trust is their android smartphone their 13 year old was downloading games on last night.

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PayPal + Mobile?? Surely You Jest?

By God, PayPal alone is bad enough, and anyone who has ever had a problem with a PayPal transaction knows the nightmare that can ensue, and the likelihood that you'll eventually abandon all hope and curse them to Hell.

But PayPal running though a cel phone?

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Timing

For the summer in London, with the visitors for the Olympics, Para-Olympics and Queenie's Diamond whotsit, I'll use this if Square haven't got their act together. Doing support for visitors who might not be there tomorrow is a major part of my plan for world domination.

I can handle the hassle with PayPal for the opportunity of getting a LOT more business.

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Anonymous Coward

Squareup?

No?

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