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Starbucks adds mobile payment app to Android along with support at 1,000 more locations

by Phil Hornshaw

There’s nothing worse than waiting in a line at a Starbucks (SBUX), because it’s always filled with people who know exactly what they want, but headed by a person who has lived in a Montana cave for the last 25 years, can’t pronounce “Frappuccino” and isn’t sure exactly where they left their change purse or whose coin carrier tube is buried in their fanny pack. “Torturous” is a good word to describe it.

For iOS users, there has been some sweet relief to this vampiric sucking of our free time with the advent of the Starbucks’ mobile payment app. It basically works like one of Starbucks’ rechargeable payment cards, but it allows users to scan their iPhone screens to run the card and make the payment, rather than dig through a wallet, produce various pieces of plastic or paper and sign legally binding documents. Counting change is a thing of the past, in fact, no one has to do math at all. Making things this easy might be leading to humanity losing its basic skills in problem-solving and survival, but boy, does it get you out of there quickly.

Finally, Android users are getting that same Starbucks payment app for use on their devices, corresponding with Starbucks expanding the app to work in just under 1,000 store locations inside Safeway (SWY) grocery stores across the country. The Starbucks card app already works in all 1,000 Starbucks locations that are inside Target (TGT) stores, plus another 6,800 standalone shops all over the place, according to Starbucks’ press release. Starbucks says the app now works at more than 9,000 store locations in the U.S. There’s not really the math to bear that out in the release, but then again, we like this app because it removes the need for math in the high-pressure situation of the purchase of coffee, so we’ll take Starbucks’ word for it.

App users just need a Starbucks card, which is free once you load some money onto it. Using a Starbucks prepaid card makes all those little extras like flavored syrups and soy milk free, rather than an additional charge – so it’s kind of cost effective if you’re a Starbucks junkie – and the app can be tied to a credit card to keep it in funds, or manually recharged with money from time to time to prevent whole paychecks being swallowed up in a flood of latte foam.

The new Starbucks app is available in the Android Market right now, and it’s free. It requires a minimum of Android 2.1 to run, and as you might have guessed, it won’t work everywhere – stores need to be able to scan the card’s bar code rather than its magnetic strip like a credit card, so without the proper technology, it’s useless. But 9,000 or 8,800 or whatever locations is quite a few, so it should make the world slightly more convenient for quite a few people. Starbucks also reports that 1 in 5 transactions at its stores take place using the app, which not only suggests that it has great coverage, but that it really is pretty convenient for most people.