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ShopKeep offering merchants free Apple Pay-compatible hardware in bid to compete with Square

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ShopKeep on Monday updated its point-of-sale app for iPad to support Apple Pay contactless payments, and the company is also offering free Apple Pay-compatible hardware to new merchants who adopt its system.

The official ShopKeep point-of-sale app for iPad partners with Ingenico to integrate support for the iCMP card reader. The reader supports legacy magnetic swipe, EMV chip cards, and NFC-based contactless payments, including Apple Pay.

And while the new ShopKeep NFC-compatible hardware will cost current customers $259, the iPad accessory will be free to new merchants who adopt the platform, according to Re/code.

ShopKeep charges $49 per month, per register to manage transactions, inventory and customer information. The iPad-based point-of-sale system is compatible with accessories such as receipt printers, cash drawers, credit card readers, barcode scanners and more.

The update and accompanying giveaway aims to give ShopKeep a leg up on rival Square, which has a significantly larger install base. Square has said it plans to begin accepting Apple Pay with new NFC-compatible hardware in 2015, though it hasn't offered specifics beyond that.

In the meantime, Square did begin taking preorders in November for its new chip card readers for both Apple's iPhone and iPad. While previous magnetic swipe Square readers were free, the new EMV-compatible iPhone reader will cost $29 and must be recharged to operate.