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(Don’t Do This) Starbucks On Android: The App That Takes

Starbucks Android App Battery Killer

With apologies for its quality (remember, there’s no way to do a screen grab of an Android SmartPhone, so I needed to take a picture to show you this), look at this shot illustrating my SmartPhone’s battery usage during a short period yesterday. See that 13% consumed by the official Starbucks App?

I never once used the Starbucks App during that period.

I went for a run late yesterday, and as I always do, I turned on Audiogalaxy—no, not Google Music—to listen to music streamed from my computer, and used an App (in this case Cardiotrainer) to report on the status of my workout. Both of these Apps are battery hogs, and with good reason: AudioGalaxy is pulling music over my SmartPhone connection constantly, and CardioTrainer is using the GPS in my Droid to check and recheck my position every few seconds and do calculations on my progress.

What did the Starbucks App do to eat all that battery? I have no idea.

Starbucks came way late to the Android App party. There have been several “Starbucks Apps” available on Android for some time now, and it’s strange that Starbucks took so long to release their own official Starbucks App. But it’s out now. All 11.4 MB of can’t-even-be-moved-to-your-SD-Card-and-runs-continuously-in-the-background-doing-absolutely-nothing of it!

This boggles the mind.

Starbacks, a company that’s shown a clear understanding that it’s in the customer service business—not the coffee business—for quite some time, has released an App for Android SmartPhones that’s so bad it would be enough to chase customers away … you know, if they weren’t Starbucks.

You’d think that after taking as long to release the Starbucks Android App as they did, Starbucks would have been able to make it take up a much smaller amount of users’ precious storage space. Or allow it to be moved to your memory card. And since the App does little more than find Starbucks locations and display a bar code on your SmartPhone that scanners at Starbucks can use to take money from your account, why is it running in the background and what can it be doing to eat that much juice?

It’s just sloppy. And disrespectful of Starbucks customers. The Starbucks Android App is truly the opposite of customer service.

This from a company that not only gives away their WiFi, no strings attached, but pays other companies so that their customers can have free access to otherwise paid content? A company that all but gave WiFi away when everybody else was still charging for it?

We’re not talking about the dichotomy that is Customer Service at Apple. There was no master plan that led to Starbucks looking bad to a few people as they did something that looked good to many. In fact, it seems there was no planning at all. Starbucks has simply been careless, and in doing so (and spending money developing their Android App in the process), made themselves look silly.

Customer Service takes many forms. So does business change. When you try to change your business by doing customer service carelessly, you hurt everyone.

Except your competition. Nice job, Starbucks. I think you’ve punished yourself enough; I won’t even bother enshrining you on The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame.

Yet.

8 Comments

  1. Actually, ADB + DDMS (plugin on Eclipse as well) allows for a screen capture on Android, and I do believe there are Android Apps that offer the same thing.

  2. Since the Starbucks app finds stores near you and displays that barcode, it’s probably pulling information from the Starbucks cloud and caching it on the device. That takes memory to do. And since it probably needs to know where you are, it uses both network data and GPS data. Why it’s running in the background is up to the creators of the Starbucks app (which may not have been Starbucks itself, but commissioned by them). But, there are apps to kill unnecessary operations and conserve battery power. Or, you could just use Google Maps and not have a dedicated application for Starbucks. Or just not be a patron of Starbucks. I’ve also never had free Wi-Fi at Starbucks…I’ve had “free” Wi-Fi because I had AT&T as my carrier and was technically paying for it anyway, but never just given-away free Wi-Fi at Starbucks. Also, it’s not a “SmartPhone” connection, it’s either 3G or 4G (or 1x/2G if you’ve got neither) connections regardless of the device they happen to be on.

    • Alex, I accept that each of your statements are technically/literally accurate. But I think my statements about this issue are clear. Whether Starbucks wrote it or farmed it out, all of the issues you seem to be defending are simply … sloppy.

  3. Actually, Jeff, we just checked again on our non-rooted Kyocera Echo and were able to perform image capture using our ADB / DDMS plugins on Eclipse. Since the Echo has two active touchscreens, we captured it in single and dual-screen mode.

    Images: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v615/tsahacker/echo_open.png
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v615/tsahacker/echo_closed.png

    While we can’t do other low-level operations with non-rooted devices, we’ve always been able to capture screens on non-rooted phones using that setup. Just requires latest JDK, Android SDK, Eclipse, drivers for the phone, putting the phone in USB debugging mode (Settings > Applications > Development), the DDMS/ADB plugin for Eclipse. I could see how this is a lot if you’re not developing or testing applications (like I do).

    • Lee, I’m with you: Using the right set of developer tools, you can do a screen capture. So literally, you are correct; “it is possible to screen capture an Android device without rooting it”.

      But regular people don’t do that … frankly, just as regular people don’t root their phones. So in PRACTICAL terms, I wasn’t wrong; just imprecise. I’m happy to ‘fess up on that count! And I’ll cross=post this to the original where you commented, too . . . at http://answerguy.com/2010/06/18/htc-sense-android-phones-capture-screen-why-cant-you/

  4. I also agree with you on the poor execution of the Starbucks application. If they wanted their customers using the application with a degree of frequency, they should be using so much of the resources available to them.

    I’m not a patron of Starbucks, so I don’t have this issue with their application, but I do find issues with other corporate branded applications quite often. Which is why I frequently find myself closing applications running in the background.

    • Lee, you’re clearly a pretty bright guy.

      The problem with closing applications that are running in the background is that it’s not practical to expect regular non-techy types to do that. It’s why I have such a problem with apps like Google Music, which doesn’t even REALLY close if you end its task AND end its supporting processes; the darned thing keeps coming back, and indiscriminately playing music when you didn’t ask it to!

      Once again, though, you’re correct; users need to be more discriminating in their choice of too-often misbehaving promotional apps!

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