Admittedly, this is a first and kudos to Starbucks for having the intestinal fortitude to try out this particular experiment. Basically, we don’t even need to carry around little plastic cards anymore. We just need our iPhone or iPod Touch and the vendor needs some sort of scanner.
This entire venture poses some serious risks. By having a software-only method of providing gift cards, Starbucks opens itself up to some serious hacking. They could literally lose millions. Hopefully whatever steps they’ve taken to prevent this are adequate but there are some really good hackers out there, particularly in China where intellectual property laws are just sort of a good idea and not actually laws.
Currently this trial “virtual gift card” is only available in Seattle and San Francisco (specifically Silicon Valley). Unless it fails like the electric car, there will likely be expansion in the future.
The app itself works pretty simply. You log into a Starbucks account, where you can look at the balance on your “card”. You tap a button that says “Touch to pay” and a weird geometric pattern (that is most definitely not a bar code) appears on your screen. That pattern is scanned and voila! You get your coffee.
The app has a settings section where you can fill in your billing information and the data for any Starbucks plastic gift cards you happen to have. This is a nice idea and a nice app and if they can somehow make it hack-proof I will enjoy myself some Starbucks Chai Tea Lattes in the future.
Pros: Convenient. Easy to use.
Cons: I’m not sure how secure it is. Starbucks probably isn’t 100% either.