Codebreaker

Starbucks lets you pay with a phone

John Moe Jan 19, 2011

Starting today, you can pay for your coffee at Starbucks using an app on your iPhone. You’ll need to go into the app and put money on that account ahead of time. When you’re ready to buy, open the Starbucks Card Mobile app, hit “touch to pay”, and hold up the code it displays to the reader at the register. Starbucks has been testing this for a while in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. The app is only available for iPhone, Starbucks has said its building an Android one too but there’s no timeline on that.

Starbucks is using its own custom-built technology to enable the 2-D mobile barcode scans. The coffee retailer opted for barcode scanning over near field communication technology — which Google is exploring– because of its limited availability. The coffee retailer was reluctant to wait for a NFC ecosystem to develop when its customers have expressed interest in mobile payments now, according to Chuck Davidson, the category manager of innovation on the Starbucks Card team. “Once there are more users, we will adapt,” he says.

Of course, let’s think about this a minute. If we’re both at Starbucks and I have my iPhone app that I previously had to fill with money and YOU have a credit/debit card, who gets their coffee first? I have to open my phone, get to the app, launch the app, hit the right button, get the code, hold it up to the reader. YOU hand the barista your card and it’s over. I’m still fussing with my phone while you’re sitting down, almost ready for a refill.

Also, Starbucks is introducing the Trenta size for drinks. 31 ounces. Bigger than the capacity of the human stomach. No word on whether each cup will be emblazoned with the words “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

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