Starbucks Rolling Out Wireless Charging Stations

The popular coffee shop is looking beyond wall outlets.

ByABC News
July 30, 2013, 11:07 AM

July 30, 2013 — -- Sick of looking for an outlet to charge your phone while you sip on your venti latte? It may be a thing of the past, if Starbucks has anything to say about it.

The coffee shop giant recently announced that some of its stores in Silicon Valley will allow customers to charge their phones using wireless charging technology. One of its San Jose, Calif., stores is debuting the capability today.

Linda Mills, a spokeswoman for Starbucks, said that the company was looking at the next big thing to improve the coffee drinker's experience while in the store.

"Customers are using mobile devices more and more," she told ABC News. "Keeping your devices powered is a problem."

Starbucks uses the Duracell Powermat to charge both phones and tablets. Customers will lay their smart device flat on a designated Powermat surface.

According to Daniel Schreiber, the president of Powermat Technologies, the closer the device, the more efficient the power transfer.

"Using wireless charges just as fast as a cable, with no degradation, at all," he told ABC News.

He added that at each participating Starbucks, there are 10 to 12 wireless charging stations, meaning that even though the technology may not require a plug, you still might be vying for valuable coffee shop real estate with other customers.

The Powermat uses the PMA standard to charge wireless devices, in contrast with the Qi standard, which has been announced for the latest Google, Motorola and Samsung products. Customers who own those devices can still use the Powermat to charge, though they will need to attach an additional case to their devices.

Customers may not need to buy the case if they are patient enough. Schrieber said that AT&T will be releasing phones in early 2014 that are able to wirelessly charge straight out of the box.

"AT&T has made it clear that by early in the new year, they are expected to have wireless charging capabilities," he said.

Starbucks has pilot-tested the wireless charging stations at several Boston locations.

"We mailed [the charging cases] to some of our top customers in our rewards programs," said Mills. "We were very pleased with how it did."

This isn't the first time that a coffee shop flirted with the idea of cord-free charging. The Coffee Bean, another nationwide coffee chain, has also been testing wireless power stations in some of its Los Angeles outlets.

Schreiber sees the work with Starbucks as a big step in promoting the PMA standard. He compares it to wireless data transfer, before it became synonymous with Wi-Fi.

"Starbucks installed Wi-Fi in their stores when the competing standard was Home RF," he said. "Starbucks' decision to make it a public commodity changed the industry."

The setup may not be perfect, but Schreiber sees it as a step in the right direction.

"The two-pronged metal plug we're so accustomed to was patented back in 1895," he said. "We're trying to transform technology that's been untouched since the 19th century."