More than a year after Starbucks introduced the ability to pay for coffee with your iPhone, Android is getting in on the action. The java chain has just released the official Starbucks app for Android. The main point of the app is to link a credit card or Starbucks gift card to the device.
Then, when you swing by for your latte or frappuccino, just load up the app and hand the phone to the cashier. It will present a special barcode that, when scanned, automatically deducts the funds from your linked gift card. Every Starbucks location in the US is equipped with special barcode readers designed specifically for the app.
The way the app works is, instead of actually charging your credit card for each purchase, you load funds into your Starbucks account ahead of time. Then, when you present your phone, it takes money out of that account.
Users can set their account to auto-replenish, meaning once your Starbucks account hits a certain level, it will deduct $10, $20, etc. from your credit card into your Starbucks account. For Starbucks, this means fewer actual credit card transactions and thus fewer processing fees.
For consumers, they have the opportunity to earn Starbucks Rewards points, which lets them earn a free drink after 45 purchases, and then for every 15 purchases thereafter.
Living in New York City, where the iPhone program was first rolled out, I've seen exactly one person use his iPhone to pay for a Starbucks purchase out of several hundred customers.
However, as mobile payment technology becomes more prevalent, especially as companies like Visa and Mastercard get in on the game (which should be happening by the end of the year), it will no doubt become a more popular payment method.
The Starbucks app also includes a couple handy features for those who would rather pay with cash - such as a GPS-based "closest Starbucks" feature and the ability to check your Starbucks Rewards account status.