Overworked worn-out yuppies will not be the only ones getting a recharge at Starbucks. Now their smartphones can too, and without the inconvenience of bringing along their bulky wired chargers.
Starbucks announced Thursday that it is rolling out wireless phone chargers called Powermat Spots developed by Duracell in a bid to entice more consumers to walk into the nearest Starbucks store at any time of the day. The circular chargers will first be seen on tables and counters in its San Francisco Bay Area stores before it expands to other Starbucks stores and sister company Teavana bar cafés nationwide.
"We are thrilled to offer our customers that next level of convenience with Powermat wireless charging," says Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman in a news release. "Rather than hunting around for an available power outlet, they can seamlessly charge their device while enjoying their favorite food or beverage offering right in our stores."
The move is characteristic of Starbucks' desire to be seen not just as a coffee store but a trend-setting coffee store that appeals to a younger tech-savvy market. Back in 2001, Starbucks was one of the first national chains to adopt Wi-Fi in its stores. Recently, the coffee chain began accepting mobile payments and is currently doing some pilot tests for apps that allows customers to give their orders before they even arrive at the store.
Wireless charging seems naturally to be the next step. A recent study done in the U.K. shows that drained batteries are one of the top sources of stress for most people, with a significant number of respondents saying that they experience feelings of panic if their phones die out because it ran out of juice. Starbucks obviously wants to cater to this need by providing wireless charging stations for its customers.
There just remains one huge kink in Starbuck's wireless charging offers. Duracell's Powermat is based on the open-standard PMA technology, which, despite being supported by major smartphone makers including Samsung, HTC, LG, Microsoft and Blackberry, is not as widely used as the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi charging standard. Newer smartphones, such as the Nexus 5, Nokia Lumia and LG G3, have adopted the Qi standard for wireless charging, but Powermat's PMA technology has not seen the same adoption rates. Users typically have to purchase additional wireless charging cases before they can charge their devices using chargers embedded with PMA technology.
Powermat president Daniel Schreiber, however, believes that the huge deal between Starbucks and Duracell is a significant turn in the battle for wireless charging dominance between Qi and PMA and will hugely influence the outcome.
"Devices will come out with compatible technology," Schrieber says. "And we'll see an industry that's been hamstrung a bit with standards issues and conflicting implementations coalesce a common ground."