RSS
Buying Starbucks coffee with your iPhone: Wave of the future?
The java chain has rolled out a smartphone app that customers can use to pay for their lattes. Will this idea kill cash?
BlackBerry, iPhone, and iPod Touch owners can download a Starbucks app to pay for drinks and find nearby stores.
BlackBerry, iPhone, and iPod Touch owners can download a Starbucks app to pay for drinks and find nearby stores.
Business Wire
A

ttention sluggish smartphone owners: Getting a buzz on may be getting easier. Starbucks fans who download a special app to their iPhone, iPod touch, or Blackberry can now pay for their coffee with their cellphones "instead of pulling out cash or a credit card," reports The New York Times. When they swipe their phones in front of a cash-register scanner, payment gets deducted from a Starbucks debit account. First introduced in Seattle and California outlets in 2008, the technology is now being expanded to all 6,800 domestic Starbucks locations and is being called perhaps "the most mainstream example yet" of cashless mobile payment systems. Can Starbucks convince Americans to adopt the "digital wallet" concept?

This idea is finally gaining traction: The phone-payment movement has experienced some "false starts" over the past couple of years, says Susana Schwartz at Connected Planet, but Starbucks' announcement, along with similar initiatives from McDonald's and other companies, proves there is growing "energy around mobile payments" in the U.S. "This may be the year" you can start leaving your wallet at home.
"Evidence surfacing that mobile payments catching on in the U.S."

But glitches still abound: The idea of cellphone transactions is "glorious," says John C. Abell at Wired. But "in my limited experience," such systems have failed me more often than not. Even when they did (eventually) deliver, the technology required "some cashier persistence." Unless Starbucks can improve that track record, plastic will still be the faster way to pay.
"Starbucks mobile app goes national, digital wallet advances"

It's a sad trend: "Remember the horrible days of human interaction, when you actually had to speak to the barista to finish your transaction for a cup of coffee?" says Fayza A. Elmostehi at Culture Map. Now, you can "go ahead and breathe a sigh of freedom." With the new payment method, you can simply disregard your barista's "cash or credit?" query and just "dismissively wave your iPhone in her face."
"Starbucks strikes again, delivering a smartphone blow to human interaction"

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week