by Mike Ricotta - March 19, 2020
If you’ve been looking at our Stripe Terminal plugin, chances are you’ve been interested in bringing your in-person transactions out on the road. Like many small business owners, WooCommerce and WordPress offer really affordable solutions for an eCommerce experience which makes this plugin a much more appealing solution than custom-coding a mobile app with Stripe’s BBPoS Chipper. With over 6 million WooCommerce sites out there, it’s clear that small businesses would benefit a great deal from an in-person transaction experience that’s plug and play ready for their storefront. Unfortunately, the Verifone P400 is not a mobile solution and while Stripe’s BBPoS Chipper does integrate with existing mobile applications that don’t require custom-coding, manually syncing inventory in two separate databases (ie. Stripe and WooCommerce) is a chore. We reached out to Stripe to ask them about a more mobile P400 solution but they have no timeline on getting this hardware available to the public. As a result, we set out to solve this problem ourselves!
Before we advance, let’s knock out this first requirement. You’ll need to use a hotspot in order to provide WiFi to the device if you want to use it remotely. That leaves us with the hardware.
Let’s start right out with the solution (for all you TLDR folks out there). By simply plugging our device into a portable power bank (like the ones you use to charge a dead phone on the go), we were able to become immediately mobile. If you’re the type who doesn’t care about the details, here’s a link to a battery pack that’s proven to work:
As you’ll see on the back of the device, you’ll need 12V of DC power, which is exactly what this batter provides. Included with the battery is a male-to-male jumper/splitter cable which you can connect directly to your download cable’s dongle and the battery itself. All we had to do was mount the battery to the bottom of the reader using velcro and use a cable clip to gather the coiled cord:
Some other ideas
For a sleeker solution, we wanted to go for a smaller battery pack. If you check the Verifone website you’ll see that the device can be powered by 5v DC as well. Most cell phone battery packs are 5v, which makes this a super appealing option if you want the reusability of the device. The one drawback of that is that these devices seldom come with barrel connectors as that’s typically a 12v connector whereas 5v is usually USB:
Upon doing some more digging, we were able to find that there are some USB-powered Verifone patch cables like the ones available for the vx820. When connected to the battery bank and the Verifone P400, this booted up perfectly and looks super attractive but there IS a downside!
The downside here is that the RS232 dongle is not present on this USB powered cable. Luckily you can buy a conversion kit for that too. Here’s one to look at:
We’re not 100% certain that 5v will be sufficient for internet connectivity, though. We’ve spoken with the manufacturer and they’re not aware of a solution that handles the dongle with USB, so my guess is that the dongle needs 12v to operate. For anyone unaware, the dongle supports the device’s RS232 and Ethernet connections, which means that when there’s no dongle there’s no internet. No internet means no functionality. So… what about WiFi? Surely the WiFi card should be able to power on and pick up networks? Wrong-o! It turns out that in a bizarre turn of events, no dongle also means no WiFi. Without the specs of the dongle itself, it’s hard to figure out why this would be. It certainly wouldn’t make any sense that the wireless card would reside within the dongle, so perhaps 5v is simply not enough to power the WiFi card as well… right? Well.. we doubt it. Even with 5v the device powers up and the network connection panel can be opened but no networks can be found. It does appear the dongle is the culprit and since they cost a pretty penny, we’re not that keen on cutting one open to find out.
Bottom line is that as long as you buy a 12v battery bank, you’ve got yourself a solution and it doesn’t cost the additional cable as this sleeker solution would have, so consider that a win!