Although cash registers have been, and continue to be an essential element in retail operations since the 1800s, their format has gone through a drastic transformation.

They’ve morphed into different types of cash registers that started with mechanical and manual models; then the shift to electronic cash registers that graduated into sophisticated Point of Sale (POS) systems.

Today, retailers have more choices than ever when it comes to choosing a cash register or point of sale system as a means to carry out daily transactions. Simply put, if you’re a modern-day retailer in need of a cash register, there’s an app for that.

What Is A Cash Register App?

Cash register apps, POS apps, or cash register POS apps, however, the company chooses to describe it (but more on that later), are all created with one core purpose; to give small business owners a simple, straightforward way to conduct sales and track the money.

Depending on your source, who you ask, or the context of the conversation, you’ll find the terms cash register and POS are often used interchangeably – and rightfully so. A point of sale system is a refreshingly refined, modern version of a traditional cash register.

They are designed for tablets, smartphones, and computers and can be found on a variety of operating systems including the big three: Android, iOS, and Windows. While they all share a common focus, that doesn’t mean they are all created equal.

There is a fine line between ‘POS cash register’ and just ‘cash register’ so let’s dig a little deeper.

SEE ALSO: How To Use An iPad Cash Register

A Cash Register App

A cash register, is a cash register, is a cash register. It’s a tool that has been around a hundred years, and people of all ages are familiar with them and their core use. Heck, they even make toy cash registers for toddlers these days. Something that was created by a merchant to keep employees from stealing money from his saloon is a now a popular kids toy. My, how times have changed?

Anyway, moving on.

ShopKeep merchant cash register app

The point is, a cash register or just ‘register’ is a widely recognizable and straightforward concept. It has become a general term for the hardware, or in this case, software, used to perform the in-store checkout process.

Some cash register apps on the market are extremely simple and mirror cash register functionality or that of a glorified calculator. You can use it to add prices together, make correct change, and that’s about it.

Others have increased functionality that is more commonly found in a point of sale system, or in this case a POS app.

Which brings us to our next point.


A point of sale app enables basic cash register functions such as sales, returns, and end-of-day totals, but it can also do more, much more. Not only can you just accept cash, but you can also accept credit cards and NFC payments like Apple Pay.

You can create products and group them into different categories and departments for better organization and tracking. It provides you with inventory management tools so you can easily track product quantities, vendors, and set reorder triggers, so you’re never out of stock of your most popular items.

You can also track employee hours and payroll costs as well as customers, their purchase history, and contact information. And the best part is, all this data is recorded and translated into reports and analytics to help provide you with insight into your overall business performance.

Also, different software providers will offer different features and functionality that go beyond software. Some solution providers may also integrate with other point of purchase hardware such as a cash drawer, receipt printer, barcode scanner, or credit card reader for payment processing. Essentially, a POS app can replace the need for a clunky, legacy POS system in your business.

An app that is labeled as a cash register and includes the words point of sale or POS is often more in line with the type of business management tools an owner needs to run their business.

However, the reason you may see both cash register and POS terms used within the name or description of the app is because to consumers they are often synonymous. Some software companies use the term cash register because it implies simplicity and is a concept that most people understand. Others choose to refer to themselves as a point of sale app because they offer advanced features like a point of sale (POS) system.

If you see a software company use both terms when referencing their product, such as ‘POS cash register,’ don’t be confused. It’s merely their way of defining how the solution works. It helps imply the concept to the audience (merchants) and lets them know there are more functions than a cash register, so they include POS or point of sale.

It’s your job to dig a little deeper to find out exactly what the full potential, or what features are available in the solution.

ShopKeep cupcake cash register app

The Right App For Your Business Cash Register Or POS?

Speaking of full potential, how do you know what app to choose that will help your business reach its full potential? We’re glad you asked! Here are a few things to consider before you decide on a cash register or POS.

Refer your business plan.
What you have written down in your business plan can help guide your decision on what type of cash register app will work best for your business. Do you plan on staying a small operation and only need the basic functionality that a cash register app can provide? Or do you plan on growing the business by adding additional sales channels like an online store? Will you need more features and functionality than a cash register can provide?

Think about features and functionality.
Piggybacking on the previous statement, while your business plan may point you in the right direction, your work isn’t done yet. Make a checklist of the features and functionality you need from a cash register app to run an efficient business.

Ease of use
Some apps are more user-friendly and easier to use than others and cash register POS apps are no different. What’s the point of having all these great features if you don’t understand how to use them? Make sure you find something that is intuitive, easy to use, and there are proper user guides at your disposal.

Flexibility and cost
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a free cash register app or free POS app when your business is just starting out. Or if you’re a merchant looking to upgrade to an app from a traditional electronic cash register. Free apps are a great way for merchants to test drive the solution, learn what works, and what doesn’t work for their business.

However, the caveat here is that you ultimately want to find an app that can grow with your business.

While you may start out using a free version of an app, make sure the company also offers a subscription version that provides more features and functionality you’ll need for your growing business. Ideally, you want something that you can use today but has the flexibility and scalability that you’ll still be able to use it five years from now.

Gone are the days when had to purchase a register from a cash register salesman, local wholesaler, or business supply store. Nowadays, you just pull out your smartphone or tablet, download a cash register app, and you’re ready to ring up your first sale.

Nicole Walters

Nicole Walters

As Content Writer at ShopKeep, a leading iPad Point of Sale System, Nicole Walters leverages her background in communications and her extensive experience in the payment and POS industry to create valuable content that addresses real problems and solutions for small business owners.