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Austin Slow to Warm to Mobile Pay Apps like Isis, Square

The idea is great: Walk into your local coffee shop, order your usual, and pay with the tap of a finger. No credit cards, no cash, no wallet.

That’s the concept behind mobile payment apps like Isisand Square. Customers download an app to their phones, program their credit card, and pay by giving the cashier their name. Their card is charged instantly.

But payment by phone isn’t taking off like some Austin business owners expected.

Isis, which launched in Austin and Salt Lake City eight months ago, has been adopted by small local businesses like Ken’s Donuts and Austin Rocks, as well as Austin branches of Whole Foods and Taco Cabana.

Ken’s Donuts owner Ashvin Patel says although Isis makes payment easy, he only sees about one customer a week use the app. Ken’s Donuts started using Isis six months ago, and even though the business has yet to see a large customer base paying with their phones, Patel foresees growth in the number of people using mobile payment apps, particularly young people.

Other businesses use Square, including Amy’s Ice CreamsVelveteen CoffeeHog Wild BBQ, and most popularly, Starbucks. But like Isis, businesses using Square haven’t seen tremendous use of mobile payment.

Velveteen Coffee owner Esther Ondras says she typically sees around five customers a week use the app, and they’re usually college students. Ondras cites a mention of Square on Velveteen’s Facebook page as the reason for an increase in the number of customers paying on their phones.

Similarly, Mark Stimak, owner of Hog Wild BBQ says he has seen a minor increase in the number of Square users in the past year.

“Sometimes we see two users a week, sometimes ten, but there’s not really a steady crowd,” Stimak explains.

But businesses are hopeful.

“I think that Square is a great tool to use for small businesses with small transactions – 10 dollars or less,” says Amy’s Ice Creams Marketing Director Aaron Clay. He is a proponent of the app, because it reduces credit card transactions and is easy for employees to use.

A representative from Starbucks described “an increase in mobile payment across the board” and says the company is excited about what the future holds for apps like Square.

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