Free wireless device charging comes to Starbucks

Free wireless device charging comes to Starbucks

Summary: The coffee chain has teamed up with Israel-based Duracell Powermat to offer wireless charging stations across the US, with European and Asian trials on the way too.

A Powermat charger in use at a branch of Starbucks
A Powermat charger in use at a branch of Starbucks. Image: Duracell Powermat

Back in the early days of wi-fi, the Starbucks chain of coffee shops took a bold step: it began offering free wi-fi while most mobile devices in the market were yet to support it.

Yesterday, Starbucks and Duracell Powermat (a joint venture of P&G and Israel-based Powermat) announced they were teaming up to do something similar: offering wireless charging spots in Starbucks branches all across the US, with the rollout scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015. The pair also plan to expand wireless charging to Europe and Asia, aiming for a global reach.

According to Ron Rabinowitz, CEO of Duracell Powermat, 500 Starbucks branches in the San Francisco Bay area will be equipped with Powermat spots in their tables and counters over the course of this year. The rollout will eventually extend to 100,000 wireless charging spots all over the US before the end of next year, while trial deployments will also take place in Europe and Asia over the same timeframe.

How's it going to work? Although the two companies are considering different monetisation models, Starbucks and Duracell Powermat will offer the service free for now.

Any Starbucks customer will be able to come in, put their smartphone or tablet on the wireless charging spot, and let the device satisfy its thirst for electricity. AT&T, a member of wireless charging body the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), is already selling smartphones that are compatible with Powermat's technology, which relies on magnetic induction.

For devices that don't support the PMA wireless charging standard by default, Duracell Powermat is offering an alternative — an external adapter, called Ring, that can be attached to the device's regular charging socket (be it MicroUSB, or Apple's Lightning and 30 pin connectors). Ring will be sold at Starbucks for a few dollars.

"Our ideal scenario is whenever you find yourself with a weak battery, you will be able to open Duracell Powermat's app, find a nearby Starbucks branch and charge your phone," Rabinowitz said.

Beyond looking to eliminate the "weak battery scare", as Rabinowitz calls it, Duracell Powermat has something for the supplier too — the ability to manage a wireless smart grid solution.

Duracell Powermat allows Starbucks' IT staff and any other company implementing its system to manage all of the wireless charging spots remotely, via a cloud service.

"It lets the company monitor usage, [to check] if everything works and monitor malfunctions. It also allows a new customer relationship, leaping from 'dumb charging' to 'smart charging'," Rabinowitz said.

"Our goal is to allow wireless charging everywhere. We have a global vision. Every workplace, every coffee shop, every car. Anywhere where you will be stationary you can put down your phone on a spot and charge it."

Read more on wireless charging

Topics: Mobility, Emerging Tech, Hardware, Tablets, EU

Niv Lilien

About Niv Lilien

Niv Lilien is a senior technology writer, and the former technology section editor for ynetnews. Currently, Niv writes regularly for several of Israel's most prominent media outlets.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Question

    So quick question about wireless charging: the tech sounds great, but does it charge your phone quickly? Is it as good as plugging your phone into a 2.1 Amp quick charger or is it more like the slow charge you get with a no-name brand eBay 500 milliamp USB wall wart.
    • can't speak for duracell's type

      I have a nexus 5 with a wireless QI charger and it charges at about 1.5 amps, so it may not be as fast as some fast chargers but it's definitely not slow. I've never really liked the powermat style since its always something you need to change on your phone or a case you have to attach to your phone, whereas a lot of newer phones are including a QI charging option builtin or sell a specific battery backing to add the phone directly so it maintains its same stock look or fits in the case of your choice.
    • Qi chargers work well

      My Windows 8x and my wife's Nokia 928 both use the Energizer Qi charger mat (charges two phone at a time) and a smaller one sold via Verizon and they both charge our phones at the same rate or slightly faster than the chargers supplied with the phones. We can get an attachment to charge our older iOS phone with it but haven't bothered to - too bulky.

      I wonder if one will be able to charge with a Qi based phone but I doubt it

      The article also suggests that one would need an app that tracks who and where you are. The Qi charger does not use an app.