Today, Paypal announced PayPal Here, a triangle-shaped mobile creditcard-swiping gadget aimed directly at Jack Dorsey's reader, Square. And, just like Square, they’re aiming to convert customers with the power of their design: They tapped Fuseproject, the firm run by Yves Behar and a darling among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, to create the object.
Obviously, the $4 billion in transactions being done every year on Square were an enticing market for PayPal. But PayPal is also trying migrate into offline, physical transactions. "We’re actually going after offline business in a serious way," says David Marcus, VP of mobile at PayPal.
The gadget works similarly to Square, offering a simple attachment and merchant app that allows iPhones and Android smartphones to do the work of a cash register, swiping credit and debit cards, and tracking receipts. In addition, the app allows merchants to take pictures of checks and credit cards, to process payments even without the attachment. The app can also issue invoices.
But PayPal differs somewhat in market strategy: The company is hoping to become a full-on electronic wallet. PayPal Here is for merchants, but their consumer app is expanding as well. As of today, that app now includes a "local" button, which lets you pay at merchants who accept PayPal. The launch partner is Home Depot, which announced that you’ll be able to use PayPal in its 2,000 stores. Later this year, according to Marcus, PayPal will be announcing other major retail partners as well as international availability.
But back to PayPal Here. The smartphone attachment itself seems fairly simple—a triangle as opposed to a square, get it?—but Behar’s team thought about it as posing two distinct problems. "One is functional," Behar told Co.Design. "But the second is symbolic." Functionally, Fuseproject tried to make the device as small as possible while still delivering accurate card-swipes. That requires a larger card-stripe reader. Thus, it lives at the base of the triangle. Additionally, the device had to tell you that you could swipe a credit-card through it, which Behar’s team accomplished by layering light and dark plastics atop each other, so you can tell that there’s a surface for sliding.
But more interesting may be the symbolic elements. "We relied on an arrow," says Behar. "It’s an ancient symbol that shows you that something is being done in the here and now. From that idea came everything else—the logo and packaging and everything."