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Starbucks' Wireless Charging: Breakthrough Or Just Totally Pointless?

Starbucks is setting up wireless charging pads in store, but will anyone actually use them?

Starbucks' Wireless Charging: Breakthrough Or Just Totally Pointless?© 2017 Starbucks

Today, Starbucks announced that they would be installing wireless charging into their stores, so now you can not only wake up your body, but your smartphone too. Well, maybe.

Ever the technological trendsetter, Starbucks adds wireless charging to its smartphone repertoire, which will soon also apparently feature a pre-order system. Wireless charging has been up for experiment in Boston since 2012 and is set to expand into Europe and Asia in 2015, with about a dozen “pads” in each store. The company’s chief digital officer Adam Brotman explains the benefits of wireless charging for both parties, stating that “we are anticipating our customers are going to come to want this in our stores much like they did with Wi-Fi”. Sounds good, right? Sadly, there’s a slight technological issue.

Desperately trying to keep up with feature rich, life-draining smartphones, battery life has hit a major obstacle: a power-struggle between two different formats ‘Qi’ and ‘PMA’. With no clear standard, smartphones are reluctant to incorporate technology that could soon become outdated, which in turn means that nobody is buying any charging pads and thus no clear winner prevails. Its all turned into a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation really.

Recently, Qi wireless charging has been embedded in an array of different smartphones, such as the LG G3, Nexus 5 and most of the Nokia Lumias, with PMA seemingly lacking in smartphone support. But just as we thought we were getting close to the standardization finishing line, along comes Starbucks, with their Duracell powermat PMA technology. This means that the pads will not be readily available to everyone, and wannabe-wireless chargers with the Qi format (or neither), will need to buy extras such as compatible cases or rings. So whether anyone will actually bother buying in to the PMA powermats remains to be seen, but surely the current sockets are perfectly sufficient for all those urgent tweets.

Would you buy one of these? Or just use your charger like everybody else?

Like the massive following that ensued their adoption of WiFi in 2001, maybe its only a matter of time before Starbuck’s eager embrace of wireless charging encourages other companies on board, and a deciding vote will be cast over the thrilling battle that is wireless charging formats. But that's a very big maybe.

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