Once Again, Starbucks Shows Google And Apple How To Do Mobile Payment

Apple Pay gets all the headlines when it comes to mobile payment, but another company probably deserves them instead: Starbucks.

The giant chain of coffee joints claims up to 90% of the $1.6 billion spent in U.S. stores using a smartphone in 2013, and 2014 probably wasn’t much different despite the introduction of Apple Pay in October. In its holiday quarter reported today, Starbucks said momentum continued to build for its mobile app, which allows customers to pay for a Frappuccino with a wave of their smartphone at the checkout counter.

In its first fiscal quarter of 2015 ended Dec. 28, the company said it had more than 13 million mobile users in the U.S., up from 12 million reported in October. They made some 7 million mobile transactions a week, constituting 16% of transactions.

CEO Howard Schultz has made mobile payment a top priority, even suggesting late last year that Starbucks’ digital stored-payment cards could become a broader currency that could be used to buy at other retailers as well. That will be a challenge, but it’s clear the company has no intention of ceding customer relationships to Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or any other mobile payment system. “Starbucks’ app is a wildly successful example of a branded currency,” says Ben Kaplan, CEO of digital gifting company CashStar.