If you’re online today, you’ve seen the news – you can now wirelessly charge your phone in select Starbucks locations – the first of a planned nationwide rollout in all Starbucks and Teavana locations in the U.S., as well as Europe and Asia. The “Powermat Spots” are “designated areas…where customers can place their compatible device and charge wirelessly.
On the surface, this sounds like an awesome thing – wireless charging available at a major retail establishment. Unfortunately, the awesomeness is only surface deep. Starbucks partnered with Duracell Powermat for the charging, instead of the Wireless Power Consortium. Duracell Powermat heads up the Power Matters Alliance, which uses PMA technology. The Wireless Power Consortium pushes the Qi standard for wireless charging. All you need to know is that they’re not compatible.
To date, there are over 575 devices certified for use with Qi wireless charging. This includes phones like the Google LG Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, the HTC Rezound from Verizon Wireless, and the Nokia Lumia 920, among others. It also includes tablets like the Google ASUS Nexus 7 (2013). Additionally, Samsung and LG have both offered official OEM accessories for their flagship smartphones with Qi charging built in, and a handful of 3rd party accessory manufacturers have released Qi-compatible solutions.
To date, there has not been a single device to hit the market with Duracell Powermat’s PMA wireless charging technology built in. In fact, their website doesn’t even have a link to a list of products. Neither are there any OEM accessories available with PMA functionality. In fact, the only accessories that I’m aware of that function with PMA chargers are Duracell Powermat’s own cases and these little dongles, which you still have to manually connect and disconnect to use.
Update: Samsung Galaxy S6 line of devices actually do ship with support for BOTH Qi and PMA.
Ironically, the Starbucks press release specifies that the PMA includes the following members: AT&T, Blackberry, HTC, Huawei, LG, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, TI, and ZTE. (I’ve bolded the ones who have already released Qi-compliant devices to the market.)
The Bottom Line
Don’t get too excited about wireless charging at your local Starbucks – odds are, your phone can’t use it, and you probably aren’t inclined to slap one of Duracell Powermat’s fugly cases or dongles on to test it out either.
Unfortunately, I can see how this ‘test’ is going to go. Starbucks is going to roll this out to all of their locations, and 6 months later, they’re going to realize that no one is using the ‘Powermat Spots’ (because they can’t, cause there aren’t any devices on the market that can do so). Starbucks will (incorrectly) assume this is a sign that the general public doesn’t care about wireless charging, and that’ll be the headline.