Friday, June 17, 2011

Starbucks Announces Release of "Official" Android App


The age of a "cashless society" is upon us.  Of course, maybe it's just a "walletless society", but nonetheless there seems to be fewer and fewer reasons to actually carry cash or a checkbook these days.
I remember being in the Salt Lake City airport shortly after the 2000 Olympics and i saw the vending machines all had Ethernet connections & you could swipe a credit card in them.  Obviously this was a necessity when you got tons of travelers coming through that don't have US Currency (possibly not even speaking English) and still want a Coke.  Being able to swipe & go was a tremendous service to offer these visiting travelers, not to mention a (most likely) cash cow for the vending machine companies.  Heck, I bought a Coke from one of the machines just because I wanted to say I'd done it.  It's not always inexpensive being a traveling geek!
Anyway, now with credit & debit cards a lot of folks really aren't carrying much cash these days.  I personally can't remember the last time I carried a check book either.  Well, this is all taking an even more techie turn as smart phones get into the fray of this as well.  As an example, let's take a look at my favorite coffee company, Starbucks.  One of the neat marketing things Starbucks does is the concept of your "own" coffee card.  Someone can give you one or you can get one for yourself.  It's  a gift card that can then be registered to a certain user (you) and then reloaded with cash whenever the balance gets low.  By having a card tied to you by registering it through the Starbucks website, the owner's coffee habits can be tracked and Starbucks assigns "points" for purchases.  It's a great way for the company to ensure loyalty and the consumer gets some perks as well.
In January, the company released an App through the Apple App Store that allowed the consumer to put in their Starbucks Card number and then use the app to charge/pay for the purchases... even if the buyer didn't have their card with them.  This made Starbucks truly cashless.  It also meant that more and more  people began locking themselves into a card since they could reload it at their leisure and didn't have to worry about having cash or their card with them.
The bummer part of the deal came when no Android App showed up.  Trust me when I say, "Geeks drink coffee."  i know of what I speak.  Geeks also use phones other than those made by Apple.   So, anyway today Starbucks announced that they have an Android App that mimics what iPhone users have had for 6 months now.
However, you don't have to use this new app if you don't want to.  Because there was a need and no solution by Starbucks, an app called My Coffee Card.  This amazing and FREE app allows you to charge your purchases by creating an onscreen barcode that can be scanned by the cash register.  It also tracks your spending and stores your receipts.  This receipt/account function is so fast that I can pay for my coffee using the app, check my balance, and have the updated/current balance on the screen before my coffee is in my hand.  You can also use it to reload your card using a secure connection where you simply punch in your credit card number and then tell it how much you want to put on the card.  Heck, it even has a Starbucks locator for those of us who travel.
I've been using My Coffee Card since the early part of 2011 and I can't say enough good things about it.  In fact, it does such a great job, I'm not quite sure why Starbucks bothered to bring out an app after 6 months of not having one.
Now just to be fair, I did download the "official" Starbucks app today and I'm going to give it a try, but honestly it's going to have to really sweep me off my feet to get me to give up my beloved My Coffee Card.


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