The Starbucks App for Android 2.0 is out on Google Play (see announcement on VentureBeat).

Good to see…

(I was one of the people who contributed design & dev to this product, specifically the Card Management tab/functionality, plus some other.)

Starbucks have proven, starting with their iOS app, that consumers are ready for mobile payments — as of April 2012, Starbucks apps have done over 42M mobile payment transactions (see announcement on VentureBeat).


Convenience is always a big winner. In the case of Starbucks it is about payments, rewards and store information right on the palm of your hands.

There is another important aspect here. It also shows that stores must have the whole infrastructure in place to be successful:

  1. The POS that are enabled with the appropriate readers and software,
  2. The devices/smartphones with the SW and functions (the apps), and,
  3. The scalable service infrastructure with the appropriate back-end integrations, and the right kind of services-and content — in the case of Starbucks, authentication, payments, rewards, store information and related-integrations.

It is then that users will adopt this in masses; and, yes, it is about convenience.

(Card management tab with Pay Now, and embedded PayPal Integration for Card Reload)

Digital cards are at the center of the app. The app, which is global-ready, allows smartphone-users to load the digital cards (dollars, pounds, etc, depending on country) via credit cards and/or PayPal — all within the app, thus maximizing the user experience. The digital cards are then scanned at the stores. For this, the app uses 2D-barcodes that are scanned/read by the POS using regular barcode scanners, consummating the transaction.

Looking forward, this app is a good candidate for NFC and/or other proximity-based technologies. If the NFC infrastructure was in place, that is, the readers and the NFC-capable smartphones, I will bet that it would also be a winner. But full, pervasive NFC deployments are still are a few years away, delaying its adoption. As a result, today, 2D-barcodes is the way to go.

(This is not real, just a concept scenario that I put together for the Starbucks app with NFC support)

As mobile app designers, the important thing is to design your application in a way that 2D-barcodes or NFC or other are just interaction channels — the key is keeping the rest of the app- and related supporting infrastructure (servers, authentication, exposed services, payment infrastructure and so on) properly abstracted. As a side note, this is a reason why Square is ready for the future — it has all the infrastructure in place, and today their reader is the Square-reader, and tomorrow it can be something else. Starbucks is ready too.