May 252011
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Square, the mobile payments start-up, has tried to make cash obsolete by giving small businesses, like farm stands and cafes, a way to turn their cellphones or tablet computers into credit card terminals. Now Square is trying to make wallets obsolete, too, by upending the way that consumers pay for purchases.

On Monday, Jack Dorsey, Square’s co-founder and chief executive, announced a way for shoppers to pay by simply giving their name to the merchant. Mr. Dorsey, who also co-founded Twitter, said customers would use a new feature on Square’s iPhone or Android apps, called Card Case, to make payments. Merchants would use one called Register to ring up and track purchases.

Using cellphones to ease offline purchases is a crowded corner of tech investment. Most companies are tackling one aspect of purchasing, like mobile payments or coupons. But Mr. Dorsey is thinking big. He wants Square to be involved in every step of the transaction process by replacing cash registers, loyalty cards and paper receipts. “We think it should be one system,” he said.

The start-up faces formidable competition. Square’s goal is to replace cash registers and point-of-sale terminals and the companies that make them, like Verifone. Square is also taking on the many start-ups that offer cellphone loyalty cards, like Foursquare, and competing with Google, Apple, PayPal and major credit card companies and banks to provide mobile payments.

Square’s new payment services are available at only 50 merchants in New York, San Francisco, Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

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