The POS operating system (OS) is an essential element for the functioning of POS System hardware. All consumer computers and smartphones work on an OS. Similarly, POS hardware run on a built-in OS.

In the past, Windows OS dominated the market for both consumer and commercial products. Thus, many legacy or traditional POS systems will run on Windows. However, iOS and Android OS have developed by leaps and bounds, and can now rival Windows.

This begs the question: which OS is the best?

In this article, we will introduce Windows, iOS, and Android POS OS and discuss the pros and cons of each.


Windows: Well-established legacy system

Developed by Microsoft Corporation in 1985, Windows was the world’s first graphical user interface. This means that users were able to see and click on visuals on screen, instead of typing in text commands.

Since then, Microsoft has consistently updated the Windows system, from Windows 95, XP, Vista, to the latest Windows 11 today.

Many POS systems run on Windows because it is a familiar OS for developers. This in itself is an advantage of Windows – it is easily accessible. There are also a variety of complementary software that businesses can find on Windows.

However, Windows has its disadvantages. For one, it is prone to hacking and virus attacks. Thus, businesses may have to install additional anti-virus software to protect their system. In addition, Windows is closed source. This means that developers do not have full access to Windows’ source code, which may hinder troubleshooting. Lastly, Windows is not optimised for remote access, a key requirement of POS systems today.


iOS: Exclusive upscale system

iOS is synonymous with Apple. But did you know that Apple runs three separate OS for its various product lines? These are iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. For simplicity’s sake, this article will refer to them as iOS. iOS can only be used on Apple’s products. Thus, most POS systems which run on iOS are paired with iPads.

As Apple products become increasingly popular, an iOS-based POS system will be intuitive for employees. Another advantage of iOS is its high performance. It also has extremely high levels of security.

However, there are also some disadvantages to an iOS-based POS system. First, it will not be customisable. Second, Apple devices do not come cheap. Businesses will have to fork out more than the market rate for an iOS-based POS system.


Android: Customisable open-source system

Android was released by Google in 2008. Unlike iOS, Android can be used on devices which are not produced by Google. Thus, it has rapidly expanded its market share in the past decade, and is now a strong competitor of Windows.

Android is an open-source OS, so anyone can develop apps without hesitation. Business owners can also add more functions to the application after the POS system is installed, to meet changes in business needs. Customizability further eliminates the need for expensive add-on features. In addition, Android was designed for remote access, which is important to multi-store businesses.

There are also some drawbacks to Android OS. Business owners who opt for free applications may see more display advertisements, making the usage experience less pleasant. Unlike Apple which has strong control over the quality of its devices, Android-based POS systems can be made by any manufacturer. Thus, businesses have to keep their eyes peeled and choose good hardware to support the software. Read about Android POS hardware in detail here.


Choosing an OS

All three OS have their pros and cons. Typically, Windows is recommended for large stores while iOS and Android are suggested for small stores. However, with changes in POS technology and business needs, business owners may wish to go beyond this distinction. For example, large stores with multiple locations may prefer an OS which supports remote access.

Find out more about POS hardware here.

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