Bad Phone Battery Life? Starbucks Wants Your Business.

A blog about business and economics.
June 13 2014 8:30 AM

Bad Phone Battery Life? Starbucks Wants Your Business.

98230548-an-new-ipad-owner-syncs-the-device-with-his-laptop
You won't need wires with the new charging stations.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Free Wi-Fi has been a big selling point for Starbucks since the coffee chain started offering it in 2010. Could a complimentary phone charging station be another? Starbucks thinks so and began testing the proposition Thursday with a nationwide rollout of Duracell Powermat technology for wireless phone refueling. The charging stations will hit shops first in San Francisco and gradually expand to other parts of the U.S. in 2015. Starbucks expects that a full national rollout of 100,000 Powermat spots to 7,500 different stores could take several years.

The Powermat chargers use magnetic fields to power cellphones placed on top of them and follow standards set by the Power Matters Alliance. Only a few phones—Samsung's Galaxy 5S and Sprint's Kyocera Hydro Vibe, for example—are currently designed to connect to stations. That said, noncompatible devices such as the iPhone can still use the charging pads if they have the correct kind of adapters. That means most customers wishing to take advantage of the benefit will have to purchase adapters of their own, as a company spokeswoman told me Starbucks does not yet have plans to supply them.

Advertisement

Starbucks conducted preliminary tests of the Powermat spots in some of its Boston and San Jose locations, and the spokeswoman said the feedback from those trials was positive. Powermat president Daniel Schreiber told The Verge that each Starbucks store should average 10 or more hotspots, and that trials showed customers typically using them for 15 minutes at a time. The Starbucks spokeswoman said the powermat spots charge devices at approximately the same rate as a plug-in charger. That suggests customers are looking to the charging stations as a brief refill on energy rather than a full-blown recharge.

The foray into wireless charging is the latest reminder that Starbucks values its reputation not only as a coffee shop but as a tech-friendly operation. In addition to its free Wi-Fi, Starbucks also has a popular app that allows customers to make mobile payments and will soon introduce pre-orders. The company has said that upward of 11 percent of in-store transactions are made through mobile devices. Letting customers charge their devices will help keep them happy—and it might ensure that their smartphone lasts long enough to buy that second iced vanilla latte.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 23 2014 12:43 PM Occupy Wall Street How can Hillary Clinton be both a limousine liberal and a Saul Alinsky radical?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 1:29 PM President Obama Is Serious About Cracking Down on Tax Inversions
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 23 2014 11:33 AM High-Concept Stuff Designed to Remind People That They Don’t Need Stuff  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 11:48 AM Punky Brewster, the Feminist Punk Icon Who Wasn’t
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google Exec: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.