Next on the Starbucks Menu: A Jolt for Your Phone

Starbucks expands wireless charging spots, but will customers use them?

ByABC News
June 12, 2014, 8:19 AM
A wireless charging spot is seen here at a Starbucks store.
A wireless charging spot is seen here at a Starbucks store.
Duracell Powermat

— -- Soon, coffee drinkers won't be the only ones able to get a recharge at Starbucks. The coffeehouse chain has announced a national rollout of in-store wireless charging spots for smartphones.

Starbucks will expand pilot programs that began last year at store locations in Boston and San Jose, California. The Seattle-based coffee chain will continue its partnership with Duracell Powermat, the company behind the wireless charging technology.

"We were pleased with the customer response to the pilot tests, and we're now expanding this offering nationally to provide our customers a quality and reliable experience," read a news release by Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks.

The rollout will begin immediately with Starbucks locations in San Francisco's Bay Area and continues to New York City stores in the following months, with other major metropolitan markets to follow throughout 2015.

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The charging spots are typically built into tables and countertops, allowing consumers to charge their phones without plugging charging cables into power outlets. Phones with Powermat-compatible cases are simply placed atop the designated spots and charging begins via magnetic induction.

While wireless charging technology isn't new, the lack of a universal standard has hindered widespread adoption and made it confusing for consumers to determine whether their phone is compatible with certain wireless chargers. In most cases, wireless charging requires a phone case that is compatible with the charging spot.

Duracell Powermat manufactures charger-compatible phone cases, along with compatible smartphone back panels that replace the factory backings on certain phones. But the requirement to purchase additional accessories may prevent many smartphone owners from picking up a charge the next time they are picking up a cup of joe.

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Employee anecdotes from Starbucks locations where wireless charging already has been offered attest to the service being under-utilized.

The more common alternative for those looking to recharge? Hunting down the nearest available electrical outlet and plugging in.

Still, since our phones are so intertwined with our lives these days, being stranded without power can be a real drain. The breadth and scope of a national roll-out via Starbucks massive store presence gives Duracell Powermat's wireless technology a much greater chance at being accepted in the same way that Americans have come to accept paying $3 for some cups of coffee.