In the mobile payment arena, nobody has come close to the success of Starbucks. Given that Starbucks had processed 42 million payments as of April, it is probably safe to assume they have now crossed the 50 million mark.
A few months back I was doing an Android vs. iPhone comparison of the Starbucks app, and discovered that from an available feature standpoint, the iPhone version is far superior. Only the iPhone version allows you to send an Egift – adding money to a recipients virtual card. There is also a cool ‘Drink Builder’ with a clever graphical interface. The iPhone also gives you the ability to tour the food and drink menu, including the calorie content. (As an aside, this is the reason I no longer eat the blueberry scone). And for the kitchen sink effect, the iPhone app throws in a QR code scanner, presumably so you don’t have to leave the app if you are browsing magazines at the store.
As an Android user, I’ve been missing some of these cool features. As a result, I was pretty excited when Starbucks announced an upgrade to the Android app last week. Turns out that besides adding a store finder and a superfluous ‘widget’, the upgrade does little to bridge the feature gap between the two platforms. My guess is that while these other features have a ‘cool’ factor, they simply weren’t used often enough to justify the development costs of building the Android version. In the meantime, ‘Small Society,’ the Portland based agency that built this module of the Starbucks application, was bought by @WalmartLabs. So as cool as they are , the advanced features of the Starbucks iPhone app end up being a case study in the decadence prevalent in the early days of app development.
What people do use the app for, 50 million times and counting, is to pay and earn rewards. And really, if not for the desire to accrue rewards, there would be no reason to use the app. In this realm, my primary complaint is the added friction of requiring the user to reload the card to pay for the drink and earn a rewards credit.
So, when the press release heralded the ability to ‘Pay and reload your Starbucks Card via PayPal,’ I read this to mean that I could link the app to PayPal account and then ‘pay as I go’ to pick up rewards credits, and that it would no longer be necessary to first reload the Starbucks card. No such luck. You can link your PayPal account, but you do this in the same way that you use your credit card: to first reload the Starbucks card before paying. Bummer because I’d love to capture rewards on my Starbucks card regardless of my payment method.
One final request:
Starbucks, thank you for sending me a personalized gold card for reaching the highest status. Why not just add my name to the virtual card in the app?