Progress in Mobile Payments as Starbucks leads the charge


Starbucks recently rolled out their mobile payment option for devices. Basically you can download a free app, add credit, and then display a barcode that will allow you to pay for your purchases using a third-party barcode reader at your point of purchase. This is a great step in the right direction by a major brand that will make a lot of consumers take notice of what mobile payments can mean, not to mention push the consumer goods industry toward further adoption. And Starbucks had a great case to try this out as 2/3rds of their customers are smartphone users. However, having downloaded and used it for a few weeks, there’s still a few issues from a customer experience standpoint where I’m not sold. Below are a few reasons:

  • I still have to download and install a specific app – Sure it’s free and easy to install, but I still need to go get it to use it and I should (though I’m sure many have no problem making the rest of the line wait) get it ahead of time and not right as I’m paying.
  • I have to have my device handy, charged, and ready – My device is habitually not charged all the way, out of my grasp, or not in hand, mostly because I’m with someone and yapping as I wait in line. I get the thinking here. Starbucks always involves waiting because their products are complicated and time-consuming to prepare, thus the downtime and propensity to pull out your phone. However, I rarely get coffee alone so that appeal isn’t there for me.
  • I have to give my payment info to this specific app – I’m not particularly shy or paranoid about this but it’s sort of a pain to enter the info, even if it is just once.
  • A gift card is just as functional – No secret to anyone, adding credit to a gift card at the register is easier, and then after that it’s a no thought transaction to pay. No waking up your device, finding the app, etc…

Don’t get me wrong, I like where this is going and Starbucks got a lot of PR out of it. But until a technology like NFC comes along to make this all a little easier I think I’ll probably go back to cash and cards when my credit runs out on the app.


Flash Lite 3.1 for OEM’s


I picked up on this over at Symbian Freak. With FL3 out for a matter of a few months, FL 3.1 will supposedly have the following enhancements:

    – Much better browsability than FL3
    – Support for h.264 codec
    – Flash 9 content will play in FL3.1 as long as it is published as AS2. AS3 engine is not ported to FL3 yet.

The first two are great… just makes more things possible and compatible for the web and video experience in your mobile. The third is interesting, but looks like it will create some confusion for developers. I’m no purist but publishing an AS2 based project in Flash 9 is a little pointless when you can benefit from AS3 and OOP so I don’t think there will be tons of extra compatibility added to the browsing experience. Plus does this mean that content identifying itself as FL9 will error out or not render if published using AS3? We’ll see.

All I can say is there better be an upgrade path for my Nokia N95 8GB. 🙂

The Chumby Dilemma


I like the Chumby. Having handled one a few times, it’s truly a unique product. Rich Flash Lite content, neat usability, games, etc… But I think the Chumby is destined to fail since it doesn’t have the relevance to an end-user to make it a must have item. Think about it… to an average user, the Chumby’s just a picture frame you can interact with. And when you think about a digital picture frame, it’s like a lamp or clock. You manage your photos for the first three months you have it, and then you’re too busy. Most users would get there with the Chumby as well.

Chumby has just secured another $12.5 million in investor capital. That’s a good thing, but I don’t think money is going to save the product. In my mind, there’s two things that can make the Chumby successful:

Lower the price – $180 bucks, that’s gonna be a killer. While there is an appetite for such spend in certain devices (we saw this with GPS units this past Black Friday) it’s going to need to serve a few more specific purposes to get people to bite.


Portability – Cut the cord and get the Chumby out of the house! It’s a lot more than an alarm clock, so why is it sitting on the bedside table in their marketing? Sell it on its differentiating points which it has plenty of. Add GPS! Make it more relevant on a day to day basis. That’s the only way you’re going to make a clear-cut value proposition to the customer.

I hope the Chumby succeeds. It’s truly a remarkable device but it’s going to take something special for it to go the distance.

Mobile Monday Event at the Apple Store


Okay this will be the last iPhone post for a while, I promise, after all I’m a Nokia guy through and through.

This coming Monday, March 24th at 7pm, Mobile Monday Boston will be held at the Apple Store in Cambridge and focus on the release of the Apple iPhone SDK. There will be demo’s, refreshments, and some great networking opportunities.


My Fidelity colleague, Hadley Stern, has agreed to come and demonstrate the iPhone Market Monitor application that he developed with his team at Fidelity Labs. Hadley is a published author and helps run two popular websites, Apple Matters, and iPhone Matters. Look forward to seeing you all there, don’t miss it!