Starbucks: A Jolt From Coffee, A Jolt For Your Phone

Powermat phone charger

Image courtesy of Powermat

Starbucks: A Jolt From Coffee; A Jolt For Your Phone

By Thursday Review staff | published June 12, 2014 |

Once again here at Thursday Review we are back on the subject of coffee. No, it’s not because we have a popular coffee mug which TR readers love to fill with their favorite brew of coffee or tea for sipping while reading our latest content. It’s because we discovered lots of TR readers are coffee aficionados—some are downright addicts, as it turns out.

And nearly every one of those coffee lovers also digs Starbucks.

Starbucks, like all distributors of coffee, all retailers and all grocery stores, has felt the pinch of higher coffee prices this year. Coffee prices have been on the rise for a variety of reasons, including a notably long drought in Brazil which wrecked the output of the world’s largest coffee-producing nation and sent joe prices upwards even before the end of 2013. But there are other factors as well, including disease and pests in several Central American countries.

Other nations are attempting to fill the gap (Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest coffee producers), but it has not been enough to keep up with demand. Starbucks has decided to get creative, and among their various forms of diversification—which recently included adding cold drinks, carbonated sodas and specialized flavored beverages—is technology...and lots of it.

Starbucks has introduced charging stations in its stores—devices hardwired into the retail footprint designed to let customers charge smartphones, Blackberries, laptops or other small devices.

How does it work? Devices called Powermats are being installed on specific table and counters throughout Starbucks 7500 locations in the U.S. and Canada. The Powermats are small, circular pods which deliver wireless energy to batteries in some wireless devices. All the Starbucks customer needs to do is place their smartphone or other device on the Powermat, and the battery soaks up a charge. The Powermat, which was developed by Duracell, Proctor & Gamble, and a company called Powermat Technologies, works only on certain devices at this time. But wireless industry experts expect cordless charging to become a standard feature on newer smartphones in the near future.

Starbucks is banking on the desire by its most loyal customers to stay connected, all the time, even if the power gets low on their handheld device. Why leave the coffee shop to plug your phone into a car charging station, or worse, leave Starbucks completely, when you can stay and enjoy another cup of espresso or a second cappuccino (yikes!), charge your phone by simply placing it on the counter or table, and spend a few more dollars in the process?

But there is a catch. The Powermat technology used in Starbucks is in compliance with a standard known as PMA (Power Matters Alliance), a consortium of technology manufacturers dedicated to making the PMA charging system the basic standard. PMA, however, has not quite won that fight, and a competing technology called Qi is also vying for the establishment of its cordless energy delivery as the new standard. For those who are Old School, think of the long, arduous fight between VHS and Betamax, or the more recent struggles between DVD and Blu-ray.

Nevertheless, Starbucks is confident that the cordless charging stations will be a hit, and they hope to have almost all U.S. stores fitted with the devices very soon. Customers who do not have devices which are already compatible with the PMA standard can still use Starbucks’ charging mats, but those wireless users will simply have to buy a specialized sheath designed to accept remote charges.

[We will have more articles about remote and wireless charging in the near future!]

Related Thursday Review articles:

Coffee, Tea, Cold Drinks and Fizz; Thursday Review; Sunday, May 18, 2014.

How Much Will You Pay For Coffee; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; March 14, 2014.