Starbucks Powermat Support Could Sway Wireless-Charging Standards Battle
Starbucks is rolling out Duracell "Powermat Spots" in its U.S. cafes to let customers wirelessly charge mobile devices, with one notable caveat. The move is a big win for Duracell and the PMA charging standard.
The company is installing “Powermat Spots” in some tables, counters and communal areas in its shops so customers can drop their compatible mobile devices on the spots and charge them while they sip their lattes — the key word being compatible.
Duracell’s Powermat uses a proprietary charging technology from the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), which means you need a special Powermat-compatible accessory to use the charging spots, and you can’t just drop your phone on the spots and juice it up.
The move is a big win for the PMA and for Duracell, because it levels the playing field a bit with the perhaps more popular, at least among mobile device makers, Qi wireless charging standard. Starbucks is the most popular coffee chain in the world, with more than 20,000 stores in 64 countries, and its support of Powermat is a significant coup, because it should build consumer awareness of the standard and lead to a lot of Powermat accessory purchases.
Powermat President Daniel Schreiber told The Verge that Starbucks customers will be able to purchase charging “rings” that plug into your phone if they don’t want to use cases, and these may prove to be the most unobtrusive option. These rings do not appear to be for sale yet, but I did find a Powermat product page that describes them. From that page:
“A uniquely designed, compact ring that connects your phone with wireless charging. The Ring comes with three different connector options Apple Lightning for your iPhone 5/5C/5S, Apple 30 pin for your iPhone® 4/4S, and micro USB for other devices.”
These rings could solve the awkward-case problem, but again, they’re useless if the customers don’t have them when they need them, which means Starbucks will have to sell them at its stores that have charging spots. Powermat’s Schreiber wouldn’t say if Starbucks plans to sell them directly, but that seems likely.
As for timing of the rollout, San Francisco areas shops come first, followed by a larger rollout next year. Some Boston and San Jose Starbucks apparently already have the spots from an early pilot program. And a full U.S. rollout to all Starbucks stores and Teavana tea bars is “planned over time.” European and Asian pilots should also begin within a year, according to Starbucks.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.