smartphone charging smartphone charging A smartphone charges on a Powermat spot. (Photo: Powermat)

Starbucks cuts the cord on smartphone charging

In partnership with Duracell and Powermat, shops are equipping tables with wireless phone charging stations.

A large-scale rollout of wireless phone charging is brewing, thanks to a partnership between a pioneer in wireless technology and a major battery company.

Israeli company Powermat and battery giant Duracell announced they’re joining forces to outfit every Starbucks and Teavana shop in the United States with "Powermat Spots" – designated areas where customers can place their electronic devices to charge wirelessly. Stores in the San Jose, Calif., and Boston areas have already rolled out their Powermat Spots, with expansions planned through 2015.

“Rather than hunting around for an available power outlet, (customers) can seamlessly charge their device while enjoying their favorite food or beverage offering right in our stores," said Adam Brotman, chief digital officer at Starbucks.

Ran Poliakine, CEO of Powermat Technologies, called the rollout “the first meaningful upgrade to the way we access power in well over a century."

Starbucks powermat charging stations Starbucks customers sip coffee while charging their phones. (Photo: Powermat)

He said every smartphone and tablet currently on the market is compatible with the charging stations. The only catch, however, is that some smartphones haven’t caught up with the technology and may not be hardwired to pick up the wireless signal. For that, he said, users would need to purchase one of two accessories – a Ring, which plugs into the Powermat port, or a compatible charging case. Both are available through Powermat. 

Poliakine said he expects wireless charging rings to be embedded into smartphones and tablets in the near future. For now, some of the locations that have already launched the spots are letting customers borrow the accessories to charge their devices.

Powermat rings Powermat charging rings. (Photo: Powermat)

Industry experts say the announcement propels Starbucks into the next level of consumer technology and out of the realm of “coffee shop.” It's already embraced mobile payment through its popular app; wireless charging is simply the next natural step.

“(The) decision to rollout a Powermat network is both empowering and transformative for consumers and the mobile industry as a whole,” said Jeff Howard, vice president for mobile devices and accessories at AT&T Mobility. “Many of our newer devices have compatible technology either embedded or available as an added feature to give consumers the freedom to charge wirelessly. Today’s announcement marks an important time for our customers – they will have the freedom to stay charged effortlessly in Starbucks stores nationwide over time.”

In addition to customer convenience, the wireless stations also consume less energy because they use DC power instead of traditional AC power.

The companies are launching a similar pilot program at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf shops in the Los Angeles area.

"Today, we are mobile people," Poliakine said. "We're moving from place to place with our smartphone, and it makes sense to energize our devices in a mobile way."

Better yet, as Powermat president Daniel Schreiber put it, "We believe it's time to do for power what Wi-Fi did for data."

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Starbucks cuts the cord on smartphone charging
Leave your cord at home. Starbucks has joined forces with Duracell and Powermat to equip tables with wireless phone charging stations.