updated 5/23/2011 10:18:19 PM ET 2011-05-24T02:18:19

The great white whale of the coming generation of phones, the thing that every company seems to be pursuing in some form, is Near Field Communication (NFC) payment systems that would allow smartphone users to essentially turn their phone into their wallet.

It sounds great — except that a company called Square says it has rendered NFC technology unnecessary.

"Cash registers and credit card terminals are relics of an expensive, complicated, and impersonal commercial transaction system," said Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, in a statement. "With Register and Card Case, we're transforming everyday transactions between buyers and sellers into something special."

Square announced a new set of apps for Android, iPhone and iPad devices that interact with businesses through current technology and don't require NFC tech. Square Register allows businesses to turn an iPhone or iPad into a cash register. Customers set up a tab on the app with their favorite businesses, and then can "pay" for items by giving their name. The clerk looks up their account, charges the appropriate amount, and the customer (who may have already left by this point) receives a receipt by text or email.

Square also created the Card Case app, which shows a virtual credit card for each business a Square user has shopped at before. Each card carries information about the business as well as a full menu of products or services. Card Case syncs with Register and the two work together to make purchases much simpler.

However, from another point of view, Square has only created a digital version of the age-old bar tab. And Card Case is only set up to work in 50 businesses in metropolitan areas (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington D.C.) at the moment.

But as the service expands, it could become quite convenient for those who frequent the same businesses each week (and, frankly, who doesn't?). Local businesses can apply with Square to add Register technology to their own storefront.

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