Smartphone users worried about batteries dying out during the day and not being able to plug in will now be able to charge their phones at Starbucks stores in the Silicon Valley area, just by placing their devices on the table. Duracell Powermat tested its technology in Boston area stores before rolling it out in Silicon Valley.
Starbucks sees this move as a value proposition for its customers, many of whom use the coffee shops as an extension office to work in or meet others. Wireless charging at Starbucks will comply with the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standard, which has become the fastest growing standard and ecosystem for wireless power, so any PMA-certified device will charge simply by being placed on the tabletop. Several companies, including Duracell Powermat, offer PMA-certified smartphone cases and portable batteries, and AT&T recently announced that many of its smartphones will ship with PMA wireless charging technology next year. Blackberry, HTC, LG, Samsung, ZTE and other smartphone makers have also signed on to the PMA.
Since 2009, Powermat Technologies has deployed more than 1,500 charging spots in the US in places such as airports, coffee shops, malls and arenas. Powermat formed a joint venture with Procter & Gamble’s Duracell, to address the growing power needs of consumer’s in a world increasingly reliant on battery-draining smartphones. PMA was founded by Powermat and P & G in 2012, and its board includes AT&T, Duracell, Starbucks and the US Government’s Energy Star and the Federal Communications Commission.
In May, Powermat merged with its closest competitor, Helsinki, Finland-based Powerkiss, eliminating the conflict between the PMA standard and the Qi standard — Powerkiss followed the Qi standard which was incompatible with PMA. The combined companies will follow the PMA standard. In Europe, PowerKiss has overseen the installation of over 1,000 charging spots in airports, hotels and cafés and select McDonalds locations.
By combining forces, the companies say they will offer a consistent wireless charging experience for mobile people across the globe.
Engadget reports that DuPont, which joined the PMA in June, will embed Powermat technology in Corian (synthetic alternative to granite) counter tops which are installed in homes, offices, hospitals and other meeting areas.
While smartphone batteries do drain quickly and need frequent charging, they still consume less energy than other electronics, so in the long run they do save energy, says an Outlier report. In December, the energy usage research group said the explosion in popularity of smartphones decreases the amount of energy used globally.
In 2012, smartphone sales volumes were estimated at 717 million retail shipments worldwide, a 45 percent increase from 2011. And people are using their smartphones to do lots of things they used to do on computers, televisions and game consoles. But the cost to charge smartphones is minuscule in comparison to charging other electronic devices.
According to a study from Opower, Outlier’s parent company, the cost to charge an iPhone 5 is just $0.41 per year, and charging the Droid Galaxy SIII costs just $0.53. In comparison, the yearly cost to charge a PC is 20 times greater, and the yearly electricity cost of a plasma TV is 100 times greater.