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Square unveils thinner, more accurate card reader for mobile devices

The original Square Reader – a compact, easy-to-use, and affordable point of sale system for mobile devices – was a massive hit when it was first released. Despite the warm reception, engineers and designers at Square felt they improve it. For the past couple years, they’ve been working to improve Reader. Earlier today, the company pulled the curtain on a new version that boasts a sleeker design and a completely overhauled electronic interior.

In the first generation Reader, Square used the same magnetic read head (the part that grabs information from a card’s magnetic strip) that you could find in a tape deck from the 1980s. The new read head, however, is much more accurate, and uses a spring system to better grip the card. In addition to reducing scan errors, this also enabled desginers to make the device 45 percent thinner than the first iteration.

The new and improved scanning hardware isn’t the only component Square has overhauled. Engineers also built a custom chip for the device that handles all of Square’s data interpretation, encryption, and transfer functions. The old version used a number of different components to accomplish all these tasks. As a result, the new Reader will work with a greater number of devices without issues and get more valid card readings on the first swipe.

This custom-built chip also makes the card reader much more energy efficient. By drastically reducing the reader’s power consumption, Square was able to ditch the device’s internal battery and now draws all the juice it needs from your device’s headphone jack.

The new Reader is available on Square’s website today, and will make its way into stores starting next year.