Ordering Starbucks coffee on Amazon Echo easy but not fast
Starbucks recently introduced voice ordering via Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant. After the initial setup, ordering your favorite caffeine fix is effortless — but ordering from the mobile app is faster.
Here’s an urgent, existential question to ponder: Is it faster to get Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to kickstart your favorite Starbucks caffeine fix? Or is the Seattle coffee giant’s mobile app still the way to go for a quick cup of joe?
Since java diehards everywhere are awaiting the answer with bated coffee breath, here it is: The mobile app is faster. But Alexa is easier.
First, the back story. Earlier this year, Alexa got a new Starbucks reordering skill. After initial set up (more on that in a second), those with an Alexa device can say “Alexa, tell Starbucks to start my order,” or a variation thereof, such as “Alexa, ask Starbucks to order my coffee.”
Alexa will then begin the process of ordering your preferred drink from your preferred Starbucks. Alexa repeats the order details, confirms the Starbucks location and the price, tells you the price, and asks if you want to place the order.
Total time to order: about 36 seconds. Effort involved: Practically none.
Setting up your favorite Starbucks fix
There are prerequisites and setup required to get to this point, however. For starters, you’ll need to open the Alexa mobile app and link your Starbucks account. You’ll also need to have previously used mobile ordering via the Starbucks app. That’s because you must designate a previously ordered drink as your Alexa favorite, as well as choose the Starbucks you want to make your drinks. The setup is also done via the Alexa mobile app, and you can change your favorites later in the app, too.
Ordering via the Starbucks app
Placing a mobile order in the Starbucks app took me less time than via Alexa, about 27 seconds. The main reason is I didn’t have to wait for Alexa to read back the details of my order.
But more effort is involved. Open the Starbucks app, tap on your previous order (assuming that’s what you want), confirm that the Starbucks you want is selected and if not, locate it; hit ‘Continue’; then tap ‘Order.’ Are we talking Herculean effort here? No. But it’s more steps than voice ordering requires.
Ordering on the go
At the moment, voice ordering for Starbucks customers is primarily limited to Alexa. And most Alexa users access the virtual assistant on an Echo device, which is plugged in at home or the office. So you probably can’t get Alexa to order your coffee while you’re out and about.
That’s going to change soon, however. Starbucks is currently beta-testing voice ordering for 1,000 of its iOS app users. The AI-assisted feature will enable you to speak your drink or food order into the app as if you were “talking to a barista in-store,” according to Starbucks. The company will do a phased rollout of the feature through the summer, with an Android version coming later this year.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.