Starbucks Bringing Wireless Device Charging to Its Stores
Two IT analysts, however, said the move is an intriguing one for both companies. "I think that in a way you could qualify this as a bold yet last-ditch effort by Duracell and some if its partners, including Starbucks, to get their wireless charging standard out there in the marketplace and to try to take on the Qi standard that at this point dominates the market," said Charles King, the principal analyst for Pund-IT. "Duracell has a few partners, but it hasn't had the widespread success they hoped for." One reason for that, he said, is that the Qi standard has been heavily adopted by many Android device makers and "that's really the standard that has taken the market by storm." The move by Starbucks to install Powermats means that consumers who want to use the coming wireless charging services will either have to have compatible devices or will have to buy new devices or add-on adapters that will let them take advantage of the Powermats. "The problem that I see with this is that the Duracell model has so little market penetration at this point that asking consumers to buy an adapter device … to my mind washes out a good deal of the convenience factor," said King. "If I have to buy a charging ring to charge my phone at Starbucks, then why not just buy a portable charging pack that I can carry with me and get a full charge off it when needed?""This almost qualifies as a stop-gap solution, like a marketing ploy masquerading as a solution," said King. Dan Maycock, an analyst with OneAccord Digital, said that while he applauds Starbucks for taking the step of adding wireless charging capabilities in its stores, the feature won't be widely used by customers until they have the right equipment to take advantage of it, which is a key drawback. "For regulars in these stores, it makes sense that people might buy the [adapters] to make their devices compatible for now," said Maycock. "For them it will be a useful thing. I can see them buying a [device-compatible] case and using that" on the Powermats. Of course, those customers will still have to hope that they can sit at one of the tables in the stores that have the Powermats installed. "But for passers-by who may or may not have compatible devices, I don't know if they will even know what it is. Over time it will be more ubiquitous."
King said the phased-in rollout being planned by Starbucks could give clues to the eventual success or failure of the effort, since it is slated to begin in hotspot-crazed cities such as San Francisco. "If this doesn't take off the way the companies hope it will, it wouldn't surprise me to see the effort gets retired in 12 to 18 months" if success in San Francisco or New York is fleeting.