Is Starbucks’ Mobile Charging Effort Going To Hinder M-Commerce?

Written by Evan Schuman
October 31st, 2012

Starbucks on Monday (Oct. 29) threw its support behind a group pushing a wireless power standard. Such a wireless approach would have power-charging pads re-energizing shoppers’ mobile devices while they sit in a Starbucks. And the standardization part simply means Starbucks wouldn’t need to support a half-dozen different devices, in theory. But will this option have any meaningful impact on M-Commerce, which seems to be Starbucks’ bread-and-butter (excuse me, coffee-and-cream) tech issue these days?

The October 29 statement pledged support from Starbucks, Google and AT&T to the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), a group founded by consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble (through its Duracell brand) and a wireless power vendor called Powermat Technologies.

Google even got celebrity employee Vint Cerf—of Internet father fame—to serve as “honorary chairman.”

The M-Commerce implication is one of those good news/bad news/good news situations. Good for M-Commerce: One of the more daunting obstacles for M-Commerce is infuriatingly short battery lives—and the Wi-Fi offerings of places like Starbucks only shortens those lives further. So from the perspective of “this is a good place to literally recharge my batteries,” it could help M-Commerce.

On the Bad for M-Commerce side: Unlike plugging a smartphone or tablet into a laptop’s USB connection to charge, the wireless charging pad approach pretty much prevents the user from actually using the mobile device while it’s being recharged. So from that sense, it actually blocks M-Commerce activity, at least during the charging (which can be lengthy).

Of course, if customers are carrying two mobile devices (a smartphone and a tablet, perhaps), they could charge one while M-Commerce-ing away on the second—and then switch. Or shoppers could actually talk to other people at Starbucks. Just kidding on that last one, of course.


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