Tag Archive | "mobile payments"

‘PayPal Here’ Accepts Payments from iPhones [HANDS ON]

PayPal unveiled its new PayPal Here, a small business mobile payment system. First shown on Thursday, it’s a combination of a free mobile app and thumb-sized card reader, putting a PayPal cash register in the pocket of anybody who wants one.

“When PayPal does something it doesn’t start small … PayPal does things globally,” said eBay CEO John Donahoe shortly before unveiling the app, and something that’s likely to give the company an advantage over the competition. The company launched PayPal Here Thursday at select merchants in the United States, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong, with plans to be available to any merchant who is interested in the service soon.

PayPal as a whole is now available in 190 markets and supports 25 different currencies. The service has tons of room to grow, and PayPal already has the customer base in place to make that growth happen quickly.

PayPal’s triangular dongle for accepting swiped credit card transactions fits in the headphone jack of any iPhone or Android handset. Its front slides down slightly to “lock” the reader in place — a characteristic PayPal feels is an advantage over Square, its cube-shaped counterpart.

While the ability to swipe cards is certainly a standout feature, the PayPal Here app is also capable of accepting check and credit card purchases by capturing photos of the check or card in question, and the app can also be used to keep track of cash transactions.

If your business is one that bills customers, then the app also has a sleek interface for creating invoices that can be sent to customers via email and paid using a PayPal account or any credit card.

In addition to offering merchants a new option for accepting payments, PayPal also announced an updated version of its consumer mobile app Thursday. The updated app allows you to find local businesses that accept PayPal payments, check-in at a business, and then simply say “Charge My PayPal” when it comes time to pay.

Integrated with PayPal Here, merchants will be able to see a photo of you and your name in the PayPal Here app, and can charge your purchases by tapping your picture. The entire process is simple and straightforward, with the best part being that merchants are using the same app to take PayPal payments as they are cash, check, and credit card transactions — it all works together.

If you’re already familiar with Square and the Square Register, then a lot of the features of PayPal Here and the updated PayPal app are going to look pretty familiar.

We were able to spend hands-on time with both apps, and used the updated consumer app -– which you can grab for iPhone today — to make an all-important purchase for our San Francisco office at Kara’s Cupcakes. Check out the gallery below for a look, and let us know what you think about PayPal Here in the comments.

A blue triangle-shaped dongle allows you to accept swiped credit card payments using the PayPal Here app

Click here to view this gallery.

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PayPal to Announce Square Competitor Thursday [REPORT]

PayPal will take on Square with a mobile payment dongle that will let business owners process credit card payments via their smartphones, according to a news report.

GigaOm claims that PayPal will announce the solution on Thursday. The report, which cites “sources we’ve talked to who are familiar with PayPal’s plans,” says the dongle will be shaped like a triangle and vie not just with Square, but with Intuit’s GoPayment and Verifone’s PAYware as well.

Reps from PayPal could not be reached for comment on the report.

Such a move is plausible in light of PayPal’s recent forays into offline payment systems. In November, the eBay-owned company announced PayPal Wallet, a card that lets consumers pay from multiple accounts, store and use gift cards, access special offers and store receipts. That product is expected to roll out some time this year. PayPal has also rolled out a program that lets shoppers use its service in more than 2,000 Home Depot stores. The company plans to enlist more than 20 retailers to that program by year’s end.

Meanwhile, Square, which is run by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, has demonstrated how fertile the market is for small business-based mobile payment solutions. The company is now processing $4 billion worth of payments and added its 1 millionth small business customer in December. In addition, Square is colonizing new areas of commerce, including New York taxis. The company also introduced an iPad app this month that aims to supplant traditional cash registers.

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Facebook Teams Up With Mobile Carriers for Payments

Facebook has inked deals with some top wireless carriers to facilitate mobile payments, the company announced Monday.

The company’s new partners include AT&T, T-Mobile USA and Verizon, among others. Under the new deal, consumers will be able to pay for their Facebook Credits via carrier billing. Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor (pictured) said the payments experience on the web is “broken” and added, “Even with operator billing support most require a step called SMS device verification. That means if I’m in the middle of the game and want to pay 99 cents, I have to wait for an SMS to arrive,” according to Inside Facebook.

In a further annoyance, Taylor said that after the SMS arrives, the user has to verify that their device is connected to their Facebook account.

“Then I have to awkwardly memorize the code and resubmit the transactions,” he said. “If I manage to make it this far, then I can finally go back to playing the game.” Facebook reps could not be reached for further comment.

The announcement comes as Facebook is prepping for its $5 billion IPO and is said to be setting its sights on monetizing its mobile operations via advertising. It’s not clear what Facebook’s stake in mobile payments would be. According to reports, Facebook is promising the telecoms a greater share of revenues and influence that the current mobile titans — Apple and Google — offer.

Taylor also told The Telegraph that if Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook today it would be a mobile app, rather than a web-based entity.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Jolieodell

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Why One Startup Wants Your Mobile Carrier to Act Like Your Bank

Google, PayPal and major credit companies are all making land-grabs for the emerging mobile payments industry. Mobile carriers — used to controlling profits made from mobile phones — want to avoid being squeezed out.

Now, thanks to a startup called BOKU, there’s a mobile payment solution that could satisfy all sides.

The product, BOKU Accounts, works like a debit card issued by your mobile carrier instead of your bank. Users receive an NFC-enabled sticker they can attach to any phone — as well as a mobile-carrier-branded MasterCard.

The financial management of Boku’s product works a little differently than its earlier offering, direct carrier billing. In that product, any purchases made with mobile phone numbers show up on mobile phone bills. The system lets people who don’t have credit cards shop online.

With BOKU Accounts, however, users deposit money into a separate account with their mobile carriers. Credit card providers aren’t cut out of the process. Everybody’s happy.

“[Credit card] networks rely on banks as issuers to attract, retain and manage users,” explains BOKU SVP of Product & Marketing David Yoo. “Banks have limited access to users — well, in relative terms.”

“There are only 2 billion credit cards, according to Nilson Report. However, mobile operators have access to 6 billion users. If the right solution can be worked out, mobile operators can become one of the largest issuing partners of credit card networks in the world.”

That sounds great for credit card companies, but why would a consumer transfer money into a separate account instead of opening a credit card with a bank? BOKU’s value proposition is this: it’s a mobile payment system not tied to specific phones or terminals.

Unlike Google Wallet, which requires an NFC-enabled phone, or the PayPal wallet, which requires merchants to install a software upgrade in their terminals, BOKU works with whatever hardware each party in the transaction happens to have. If the retailer’s terminal isn’t NFC-enabled, that means the customer is just swiping a regular credit card.

What is different is that merchants can communicate with customers before and after the transaction. A BOKU-powered rewards program lets merchants target deals at people who fit specific demographics within a certain proximity. Each time they do so, they pay those customers’ mobile carriers.

Users can set their phones to be alerted when certain types of deals are pushed out. They can also set budgets and be alerted when they approach their limits. If they’re using a feature phone, they get text messages instead of push notifications.

It’s not dissimilar to the deals programs in the Google and PayPal Wallets, but it’s viable on existing hardware.

Beyond that, everyone involved in the payment should be satisfied. The carriers, and BOKU, get paid when merchants send offers; credit cards (for the time being, MasterCard only) get their usual transaction fee from the merchant. And users get something like a real-time Mint with coupons — but not yet.

Not a single carrier is currently offering Boku, though one of them in the UK is running a pilot program. Through its direct carrier billing product, the startup does, however, have relationships with more than 200 of them.

If your carrier were to offer Accounts, would you sign up? Let us know why or why not in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, mevans

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How Mobile Payments Are Revolutionizing Public Transit

The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles — it delivers smart mobility services. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

GetTaxiIf modern technology is a universal language, the world is getting schooled in innovation, especially in the public transportation sector.

The global transportation industry has become a testing ground for new payment systems, as cutting-edge technologies have been introduced to taxis, buses and trains worldwide to streamline your jaunts around town. From reserving and paying for a cab with an app to purchasing train tickets via an iPod, various countries are experimenting with new ways to reach out to travelers and make payment and transport a whole lot easier.

Get Taxi

Israel is already making an impact on the mobile payment industry with an app called Get Taxi, which coordinates cab pickups and payments. Without making a phone call, Get Taxi — which is available for Android, BlackBerryand iPhone devices — allows consumers to get a taxi at the click of a button in less than 30 seconds, as though it were an OpenTable reservation.

Once ordered, users can watch and track the reserved taxi on a smartphone’s map as it comes to pick them up — Get Taxi estimates the time of arrival and displays motion in real time. Much like airline travel, passengers can collect miles for free rides or prizes, and payment can be streamlined by saving your credit card information in the app.

The app has been hailed by Time Out Tel Aviv as app of the year, and the host of popular show Big Brother, Israel Assi Azar, tweeted on Friday that after several failed attempts to hail a taxi, he ordered one through the app that showed up just minutes later.

“We’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads since the app launched, and the news of the service has gone viral,” says Nimrod May, vice president of offline marketing and strategic partnerships for Get Taxi. “Since you get the driver’s contact information ahead of time, parents feel safe sending their kids in Get Taxi cabs, and passengers also feel less frustrated when waiting for it to arrive since they can see where exactly the taxi is headed from.”

Get Taxi’s innovative concept also benefits the driver, bypassing the need for a dispatcher and welcoming cash, credit cards and business accounts for payment. Drivers are also assigned pick-ups close to their last drop location, so they don’t have to waste time or gas getting to their next location. A five-inch device — which is free for drivers and resembles a GPS system — can be installed in taxis to keep track of the latest reservation requests.

“A main component of the success is that the app is simple, it allows users to get full control over something they didn’t have control over before, and that the experience is optimized and seamless,” May says. “We couldn’t be happier with the results so far.”

Founded in 2010, Get Taxi seeks to reinvent the taxi market in Europe, which is valued at about $22 billion, according to the company. In addition to having a presence in Israel, the app is also available in London. Get Taxi plans to roll out the app in Moscow in March and then has its sights set on Paris, Spain, South Africa and eventually the U.S.

To spread more global awareness, Get Taxi is launching a Guinness Book of World Records initiative called “It’s on the Meter,” which will follow a taxi as it travels three continents, 39 countries, 10 time zones and more than 31,000 miles. Right now, the taxi is in San Francisco and will be headed to New York before it takes a ferry to Europe, Russia and then Sydney, Australia.

“We have already tremendously and positively disrupted an industry that wasn’t being tapped with cutting-edge technology,” May tells Mashable. “We think in the next five years that businesses will either have to keep up with the innovation or cease to exist.”

VeriFone Payment Terminals


In addition to being an early adopter to the GetTaxi app, London is no stranger to being at the forefront of other emerging technologies. In fact, taxi drivers in London were incentivized last year with nearly $5,000 to trade in their old models for newer vehicles that are more eco-friendly and boast state-of-the-art technology, such as back-seat TV sets and mobile payment machines powered by San Jose-based VeriFone that let you swipe or tap credit cards.

VeriFone is one of the most innovative mobile payment providers currently testing the waters with new technologies worldwide. Beyond its experimentation in London, the company recently deployed validator technology on bus systems in Turkey, allowing travelers to tap a pre-paid contractless card, issued by the country’s transportation authority to make jumping on board buses easier and more efficient. VeriFone is also using GPS-tracking on buses, so people waiting at a bus stop know in real-time how soon a bus will arrive.

“The buses in Turkey are equipped with GPS tracking and are constantly reporting their location to Verifone’s system in the cloud,” says VeriFone’s senior vice president of marketing, Paul Rasori. “VeriFone then sends messaging to signage at various bus stops to inform travelers that their ride is only four minutes or so away.”

High-Tech Subway Payment

Taxis and buses aren’t the only modes of transportation getting a taste of new tech. Austrian railway WESTbahn recently rolled out new payment technology onboard its trains with the help of the Apple products and mobile technology provided by VeriFone.

“There is a general trend in mobility with companies taking advantage of consumer mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads and iPods,” Rasori says. “Customer service representatives on WESTbahn trains carry iPods that fit into a cradle to enable easy payments. It takes the customer service windows away, and it also allows people with near field communication-enabled (NFC) mobile phones to tap their devices to make a payment.”

Wireless carrier China Telecom Beijing Limited Company is also testing a new way to pay for its bus and subway systems with its “e-Surfing Traffic Card” program. The service incorporates a radio frequency user identifier module (UIM) card that integrates with China Telecom’s 3G mobile network and Beijing’s transport cards. To pay for a ride, users just need to swipe their mobile phones at designated spots. It can also be used to pay for products at participating merchants.

“Mobile payments technology has made advancements in the past few years across the globe, and it’s only expected to grow,” Rasori says. “What’s happening overseas will eventually come to the U.S. and in some cases, it’s already started.”

Rasori notes that just five years ago, New York City taxi cabs were cash only. Now with the incorporation of credit card systems attached to TV systems, 60% of fares are now electronic, and there could be more innovation on the way.

“In the future, you will even be able to buy lottery tickets from the back seat of a taxi,” Rasori says. “The capability exists and so does consumer interest, so it’s only a matter of time before we see more innovative technology in the public transportation industry.”

Series Supported by BMW i


The Global Innovation Series is supported by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment. It delivers more than purpose-built electric vehicles; it delivers smart mobility services within and beyond the car. Visit bmw-i.com or follow @BMWi on Twitter.

Are you an innovative entrepreneur? Submit your pitch to BMW i Ventures, a mobility and tech venture capital company.

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eBay CEO: NFC Payments Need Standardization to Succeed [VIDEO]

Mashable’s Davos coverage is presented by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment.

eBay CEO John Donahoe sat down with Mashable CEO and founder Pete Cashmore to talk about the future of ecommerce and mobile commerce at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as part of Mashable and Scribd’s Documented@Davos series.

In 2012, Donahoe expects to see even more people making mobile payments and buying things online on their mobile phones. He said that eBay’s mobile app now boasts 65 million users that did $5 billion in business in 2011. He mentioned that 2,300 cars were purchased every week on the mobile app as well.

“People are shopping in line at Starbucks, or when they’re bored at a meeting in work,” Donahoe said.

Donahoe said that eBay acquired RedLaser, a barcode scanning app that allows users to compare prices in the store with prices online. He added that the app now has the capability to cross-check prices at other stores based on your location.

“The line between e-commerce and retail is blurring rapidly. People are shopping in between retail and online,” he said.

Donahoe also added that PayPal can be used at some stores now, ahead of near field communication (NFC), which he doesn’t believe will be widely adopted until it is standardized.

Do you shop eBay or use apps like RedLaser to find good deals? Tell us in the comments.


Mashable is working with Scribd on a program called Documented@Davos, where we’ll be interviewing young leaders, technology pioneers and forward-thinking organizations to share the important issues being discussed at Davos with everyone online. You can follow along with the hashtag #DavosDocs.

Here’s the lineup of leaders who will be interviewed for Documented@Davos:

Coverage presented by BMW i

Mashable’s Davos coverage is presented by BMW i, a new concept dedicated to providing mobility solutions for the urban environment.

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T-Mobile Takes LevelUp Partnership Further With Merchant Terminals

T-Mobile is taking its partnership with mobile payment startup LevelUp a step further by powering phone-enabled payment terminals for its merchants.

These terminals, which come in nifty shoebox-sized kits and can be ordered on the LevelUp website, are really just phone docking stations that come with custom LG smartphones. The phone runs a version of Android that can only processes LevelUp payments. LevelUp users will pay at the new terminals by scanning a LevelUp QR code on their own phones.

Users don’t store any money within a LevelUp account. Rather, they link a credit or debit card to their accounts the same way that Starbucks links a gift card to its app. Merchants can add rewards to LevelUp that are already waiting for customers the first time that they use the app, and customers earn free credit at that merchant every time they spend money there using the app.

The startup’s 1,200 merchant locations have been using either the merchant app or another type of T-Mobile merchant solution to scan the QR codes the payment app generates. They can still use the app, but the new docking station gives LevelUp a place on the counter and some service advantages. A monitoring program, for instance, lets LevelUp know when a station is uncharged or not working so it can alert the merchant.

T-Mobile and LevelUp will charge merchants $25 per month to use a payment terminal. The fee makes sense for merchants, LevelUp CEO Seth Priebatsch says, because they’re saving money on processing fees every time a customer uses the app. LevelUp charges a flat 2% processing fee for transactions, which is favorable to most credit and debit cards. It has also dropped the $55 monthly fee it once charged in addition to the processing fee.

At the same time, LevelUp provides an instant mobile loyalty card program for businesses that, unlike Starbucks, can’t afford to build their own app.

But wait. How does LevelUp end up charging a lower transaction fee than credit cards? In the end, isn’t it just charging the cards that customers link to their accounts? Well, yes. But here’s the trick: It gets a better rate than than most merchants. Priebatsch says it’s partly a matter of removing some of the risk. Customers have no payment information stored on their phones, just a QR code. Merchants don’t acquire any payment information when they scan the code. And LevelUp doesn’t need to store any payment information in order to process it. The QR code is just a token.

“As a nerd, it makes me really happy,” he says. “It’s how secure file sharing works, but it’s never really been applied to payments.”

Being a connector between payment sources could have another advantage as well. In the future, LevelUp could link your account not to a credit card, but directly to your bank account or even, let’s say, your T-Mobile phone bill.

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Square Lets Entrepreneurs Round Out Their Payment Options

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

If you’re an entrepreneur in the retail sector, you’ve no doubt heard the following phrase that has brought many transactions to a grinding halt: “Do you take credit cards?”

If the answer is no, all the goodwill in the world won’t help you. These days, people just don’t carry that much cash around with them. That was the situation that Chip Forsythe encountered last year. Forsythe is one of the founders of Slo Down Wines, a San Francisco vintner. Forsythe started the company with two college buddies. Having no budget to speak of, he soon found the company’s primary marketing vehicle — wine shows — was quickly depleting their resources.

By Forsythe’s estimation, each show would cost around $300 or so to participate in. Then the company would distribute hundreds of dollars in wine for free. What was frustrating was that people at the shows appeared interested in buying Slo Down’s wines, but didn’t have cash. Last year, Forsythe’s younger brother told him about Square, a free device and app that let you process credit cards on your smartphone. It was a huge change.

“We went from losing money at the shows to making thousands of dollars,” he says. Fair enough, but why didn’t Forsythe just go the traditional route and get a merchant account with one of the credit card companies? “It seemed too beyond us,” he says. “We didn’t have any money.”

It’s hard to turn down free, though. Square entices vendors like Slo Down by sending its quarter-size Square reader device free. After that, the company takes a 2.75% cut of every transaction. You can also set up an account pretty quickly, says Katie Baynes, a rep for Square. “We do a credit check, but it’s not a traditional check,” she says.

Launched publicly in October 2010 by Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, Square claimed its 1 millionth vendor in December. While Baynes says the company doesn’t outline which types of companies are using Square, anecdotally at least, it seems to have found a niche among formerly low-tech trades like food trucks, farmer’s markets, dog walkers and Christmas tree vendors, as well as at PTA fundraisers.

About the only knock against the company, at least in the early days, was that it had a limit of $1,000 a week for transactions, ensuring that your business would stay small. However, that limit has now been removed.

At the moment, that doesn’t seem to be a deal-breaker for many. Merchants are happy to pay the relatively small transaction fee (for online-only transactions in which merchants manually enter credit card information, Square gets a 3.5% cut plus an additional 15 cents) and, for its part, Square gets access to lots of sales data. For instance, Square knows the average price of a cappuccino ($3.09 as of April) and the busiest sales day of the week (Saturday).

That data has helped Square rack up $168 million in funding so far. Dorsey’s pitch to investors is simple: There’s a huge market out there of vendors who, for one reason or another, don’t want to get a merchant account, but would be happy to find a way to process credit cards.

Dorsey, of course, isn’t the first one to notice this. PayPal has offered the same kind of payment option for vendors for some time and is now making the move into offline transactions with PayPal Wallet. Over the next year, PayPal hopes to roll out terminals that merchants can use to facilitate payments via a PayPal credit card, typing in a PayPal pin or eventually using an NFC tap. Of course, Google is also eyeing the same space with Google Wallet.

While those technologies are still in their infancy, though, Square is a solution that’s up and running today. That doesn’t mean, however, that Square will look the same a year or two from now. Bob Egan, VP of mobile strategy for Mobiquity, a mobile technology consultancy, says he believes that Square has impressed the major credit card firms by rounding up new customers. Egan believes that at some point, one of the credit card giants may decide to buy Square. At this point, though, they’re just watching it very closely. Says Egan: “They look at Square as a great science project.”

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Unlock Free Pizza in NYC This NYE With Payment App LevelUp

Mobile payment app LevelUp will launch with its first national brand partner, Villa Pizza, on New Years Eve. Members of the annual Time Square New Years Eve mob who use the app to pay at the restaurant can enjoy $10 worth of free pizza while they’re waiting for the ball to drop — regardless of which phone, bank or credit card they’re using.

To cash in on their free slices, users need to link any credit or debit card to their LevelUp accounts. When they get to the restaurant, the app generates a unique QR code at the register that can be scanned with a merchant app to pay. Up to $10 of pizza is on the house, and anything more than that will be charged to their connected accounts.

LevelUp, which was created by check-in game SCVNGR, makes mobile payments more practical by taking NFC hardware out of the equation. It can be used with an iPhone app, Android app or through a mobile website. Google Wallet, by contrast, can only be used by those who have a Citi Mastercard or Google prepaid card and an NFC-enabled phone.

A trickier problem than practicality, however, is getting people interested in using their phones to pay in the first place.

“I don’t think the payment experience is particularly broken,” SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch told Mashable. “You need to add something more.”

That’s where the $10 of free pizza comes in. Merchants can add rewards to LevelUp that are already waiting for customers the first time that they use the app. Customers earn free credit at that merchant every time they spend money there using the app. It functions like a loyalty card.

But is that enough to get people scanning their phones instead of their credit cards? T-Mobile is betting on it. They’ve partnered with the startup to provide merchants with scanning hardware that replaces the merchant app and makes it easier to accept LevelUp payments. Since launching in October, the startup has accumulated 100,000 users and teamed up with more than 1,000 merchants in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

With more than 350 locations, Villa Pizza is their biggest partner merchant yet. If you had plans to be in Time Square on New Years Eve, would LevelUp’s $10 deal persuade you to check it out with your phone?

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One in Four Starbucks Transactions Now Done Via Card, Including Mobile

Starbucks customers apparently are finding buying via mobile as addictive as the company’s coffee.

Less than a year after Starbucks launched an app that allows mobile payments, it has hosted 26 million such transactions on iOS, BlackBerry and Android, according to the chain. One in four Starbucks card transactions is now executed via a Starbucks card and a portion of those are done through mobile.

The mobile-payments initiative has built momentum recently: In the nine weeks after it was released, there were 3 million transactions. But in the past nine weeks, there have been 6 million, says Adam Brotman, SVP and general manager of Starbucks. He adds that New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and San Jose, Calif., are the top cities by volume for mobile purchases.

Brotman declined to say exactly how many people had downloaded the app, except that it’s in the “millions.”

Starbucks presented the stats to emphasize its contention that 2011 was the “year of mobile” for the company. Among other recent highlights was the company’s Cup Magic augmented reality app, which has spurred 450,000 “engagement points” since its November release. An engagement point refers to a use of the app. According to Brotman, 91% of people who downloaded the app used it.

Finally, $110 million has been reloaded to customers’ Starbucks cards via mobile, Brotman says. For comparison’s sake, $2.4 billion was loaded onto Starbucks cards overall in 2011.

When asked why mobile payments seem to have caught on at Starbucks, Brotman said he thought convenience was a major factor. “It’s a faster, easier way to pay,” he said. “We not only developed the feature, but we also rolled out scanners in our locations.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, INeedCoffee

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