Modern POS devices frequently run mobile operating systems like iOS or Android for their smaller footprint, always-on connectivity, and thin, sleek touchscreen displays. While slim Windows POS solutions exist, they’re generally far more expensive and require a Windows licensing agreement.

Most organizations find themselves choosing between an iPhone (mPOS) plus iPad (tablet or fixed POS) solution, or one that utilizes a mix of various Android devices (potentially from an all-in-one vendor, like Square or Clover).

This can make choosing a platform challenging, as both do offer advantages (and disadvantages).

iOS vs Android POS comparison

iOS (iPad / iPhone) for POSAndroid for POS
MDM configurationYesYes
Developer APIsYesYes
Custom firmwareNoYes
Custom deploymentNoYes
Custom hardwareNoYes
Display sizes4″-12.9″3″-55″+
OS updates5 yearsVariable
Security updates8 yearsVariable
Remote controlYesYes
Peripheral supportYesYes
Price point$450-$1000+ base device, plus enclosure$150-$500+ base device, may include enclosure
Hardware vendorsOneMany

Why does Android or iOS (iPad / iPhone) for POS matter?

When choosing a point of sale solution, iOS versus Android is primarily a choice of hardware and economics.

iOS solutions offer longer OS and security support than most Android solutions, but this support comes at a very, very high cost (both economically and practically). If you wish to evolve your point of sale platform or introduce custom functionality that may require new hardware or OS-level features, iOS will be an extremely limiting factor. Only Apple produces iOS devices, and Apple decides what chips, features, and sizes this hardware will be offered in. In practice, this means choosing between one of four different iPad sizes, none of which may be your “ideal” footprint.

Android, on the other hand, gives you the choice of a plethora of manufacturers — and the option to essentially customize your hardware to use case. Working directly with an OEM partner, large deployments can take advantage of scale to procure semi-custom or fully custom designs and SKUs. Off the shelf still offers plenty of variety, though, with Android tablets and handhelds available at virtually every price point imaginable.

Android will also never lock you to any one vendor — be it OEM, chipset, or peripheral provider. Mix and match devices to get your “perfect blend” of point of sale transformation. Perhaps you realize that your mobile POS (mPOS) devices need to be a little more performant than your stationary POS to handle customers in a hurry, or in a long drive-thru queue. You may even decide your need mobile data (4G/5G) connectivity as part of your POS solution.

This is why Android is the preferred platform of a growing number of POS solutions providers and large-scale POS deployments. The flexibility to grow and evolve with your organization’s needs and innovation strategy is built right in because you have an entire ecosystem of hardware at your fingertips.

Android vs iPad POS cost

The cost of iOS devices in dollar figures is tough to ignore. For an iPad, $329 is the lowest price point available, and that device may be too small (or too large!) for your use case. That’s not to mention all of the high-end consumer grade features you’ll be paying for that your business will never actually use. Long-term support is nice, but you’re getting it in a glass cage.

This is not to mention the cost and realities of replacing broken iOS devices in the field, which may not always be readily available (remember: you’re on the consumer supply chain with Apple).

Android POS cost is more difficult to nail down but tends to scale much more effectively with your deployment type and, frankly, ambitions. Most POS systems don’t need a rear-facing camera, a super high-speed data port, AI hardware, or professionally color calibrated display panels (yep, we’re still talking about iPads). As such, shopping for Android immediately affords you options that aren’t available in the Apple ecosystem.

Extremely cheap Android tablets do exist (sub-$100), but generally provide such a poor experience that we here at Esper don’t recommend them too often. But in the $150-300 range, a huge number of options exist to base your POS solution on. You can also work directly with a traditional POS supplier (like our friends at Xenial or NCR) if you’re looking for a completely integrated retail or restaurant management solution, with whom we offer Esper firmware-enhanced products.

Not only is Android cheaper, but the form factors are tremendously varied! You can shop for mPOS devices in tablet or handheld form factors that come pre-ruggedized for impact and other damage protection, something that’s always an added extra for an iPad or iPhone. Point of sale touchscreens come in far more sizes, ranging from 7″ to 30″ or more! With Android, you can even modularize your point of sale using a “backpack” computer to power an external touchscreen display.

Taras Vyshnya/

Do Square / Clover / Toast etc. use Android or iOS?

All-in-one custom POS solutions from brands like Square, Clover, and Toast run Android-based operating systems. However, most POS solution providers support devices running iOS and Windows, and frequently will partner with hardware vendors to fill gaps in their own device lineups.

Mixed POS operating system deployments aren’t as uncommon as you might think! Many fleets upgrade or replace systems with different POS functions out of sync. You may be ready to swap out all of your existing stationary POS devices for new hardware, but that doesn’t mean your mPOS solution has to be swapped, too — that would be a cost and planning disaster. But while your legacy countertop POS may run Windows, those mPOS devices probably run Android or iOS!

Still, Android remains the preferred solution of most all-in-one POS vendors for a simple reason: the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is a free OS available for commercial reuse to anyone, allowing custom firmware to be built to purpose (as opposed to iOS, which hardware-locked and generic).

How can an Android POS help my organization?

While you may not be ready to design your own POS device from the ground up, the flexibility of Android means that you can start that journey in steps without making huge, lasting commitments to any one vendor or device.

Start with your mPOS strategy. Where do you want to deploy mobile checkout, or drive-thru line busting? Explore vendor options, pilot devices, and decide if off-the-shelf or custom is the route for you! And if you need help on that front, Esper is a resource you can trust. We’ve helped major brands like Taco Bell and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and we’ve supported small businesses in their scaling journey.

Learn more about Esper’s POS deployment and management solutions here.

Image source: Olena Yakobchuk/