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Starbucks Installing Wireless Charging Surfaces in U.S. Cafes


The coffee shop chain is partnering with Duracell Powermat to offer customers complementary cable-free smartphone and tablet recharging alongside their usual caffeine hit.

The charging points will be integrated into tables and counters and when a compatible device comes into contact with one, the battery will start automatically recharging. No need to dig out a power lead or cable or resort to bribery to get a customer sitting next to a power socket to trade places.

On paper, wireless charging is a brilliant idea and one as revolutionary as wi-fi, something that Starbucks is quick to highlight.

“From WiFi and the in-store Starbucks Digital Network to mobile payment and digital music downloads, we have always tried to anticipate our customers’ needs early in the adoption curve and provide a world-class solution. We are thrilled to offer our customers that next level of convenience with Powermat wireless charging. 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,” said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks.

However, it has to overcome a few hurdles if it is to become the “world-class solution” that Starbucks wants it to be.

The first is that it needs major backing so that companies and consumers are more aware of the technology and more willing to take a gamble on it.

Starbuck’s decision to roll it out nationwide is a good first step in this regard, as Stassi Anastassov, President of Duracell points out: “When Starbucks introduced wi-fi in their stores in 2001, 95 percent of devices didn’t have wi-fi, and multiple standards hampered the industry. The rest is history. Starbucks’ plans to offer Powermat nationally is likely to settle any lingering standards questions, and usher wireless power into the mainstream.”

What is glossed over is that wi-fi already had a universal standard by 1999 and that thanks to Apple incorporating the technology into its iBooks in the same year, by 2001, everyone knew what it was and why having it as an option on a notebook was a great idea.


Wireless charging case for iPhone.

And therein lies the second hurdle. Wireless charging doesn’t have a universal standard. The PMA standard for wireless charging that Duracell Powermat supports is backed by AT&T, BlackBerry, HTC, Huawei, LG and Samsung, so their devices have native compatibility. Consumers with handsets and tablets made by other companies will have to buy a wireless charging case that supports the standard in order to take advantage of it.

And of course, a host of devices that don’t support PMA’s take on wireless charging support the competing QI standard instead. So they have the technology onboard already, but it’s useless when drinking at Starbucks. Then there’s Apple, the company that was at the vanguard of making wi-fi a standard feature. It is pretty much the only tech company not to put its weight behind any of the current wireless charging standards. This is also why more wireless charging cases are available for the iPhone than for any other smartphone handset.

Yet, despite this continued confusion and competition between standards, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, interest in the technology among the general public has never been higher. and wireless charging accessories are on the list of consumers’ most likely tech purchases in 2014, alongside Bluetooth speakers and big headphones.

Still, this in and of itself isn’t particularly surprising seeing as the most important feature for most people when choosing a smartphone is not screen size or camera performance, but battery life.

Concerning a timeframe on the rollout, Powermat President Daniel Schreiber told The Verge, ”2014 will be focused mainly on the west coast, but 2015 will see expansions to major metropolises across the United States.” Each Starbucks cafe should get an install of 10 or more Powermat Spots.