Wireless device charging has been around for years, but most people still stick with old-fashioned cords. Now AT&T and Starbucks are teaming up to try to make this power technology more popular in the mainstream.
AT&T and Starbucks said that beginning Tuesday, Starbucks would offer wireless charging in at least 200 of its cafes in the United States. Starbucks will start with coffee shops in the San Francisco Bay Area and eventually expand the service to other parts of the country.
The wireless charging will use technology developed by Power Matters Alliance, an organization backed by AT&T, Starbucks and Google. The technology involves magnetic induction: When a phone is placed on a surface, an electrical current creates a magnetic field, which creates voltage to power the phone.
At Starbucks cafes, the wireless charging will be embedded in the surfaces of tables and bars so that customers can charge their phones while they sit. Only some phones are compatible with the wireless charging out of the box; consumers can check carrier websites to see if their device can be charged. For phones that are incompatible, Starbucks customers can borrow or purchase a ring that plugs into an iPhone or Android device, and the ring can be placed on the charging surface to draw power for the phone.
In general, wireless charging has been a relatively unpopular technology among consumers for a couple of reasons. For one, it does not charge a phone as quickly or efficiently as an ordinary cable does. For another, wireless charging often still requires using a wire, despite its name. Many versions of the technology involve a charging mat that is plugged into a power outlet; you place the phone on the mat instead of plugging a wire into the phone.
AT&T said Starbucks was the first brand it was working with in rolling out wireless charging. Jeff Howard, an executive in AT&T’s mobile device division, said his team had been in talks to bring wireless charging to airports, restaurants and hotels, too. This is an example of how AT&T is pushing its brand into outlets outside its own retail stores, while also trying to popularize a technology on which it has bet a lot of money.
“This is not something that’s going to happen overnight, but it’s going to become more and more a part of consumers’ mind-sets as they get comfortable with this type of technology,” Mr. Howard said about wireless charging.