Duracell demos Starbucks-powered phone charging at CES

A clever new Powermat dongle will enable wireless tabletop charging while you sip your favorite brew.

The tabletop-embedded Duracell Powermat wireless charging station at CES 2014, shown here with the plug-in receivers in various colors.
The tabletop-embedded Duracell Powermat wireless charging station at CES 2014, shown here with the plug-in receivers in various colors. Photo by Rick Broida/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- How do you solve a problem like wireless charging? For Duracell, the answer may lie at your local Starbucks.

Here at CES, the company is demonstrating what the future of its Powermat technology might be. In the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, Duracell has installed wireless charging stations in the heavily trafficked Starbucks.

Of course, few attendees have the necessary Powermat case. Solution: a new wireless charging receiver that plugs into an Apple 30-pin, Lightning, or Micro-USB port. Duracell will loan one of the receivers to anyone who needs to power up, which is done just by laying the phone on a tabletop-embedded Powermat.

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According to Duracell Powermat CEO Ron Rabinowitz, Duracell has been testing this setup at pilot stores in Boston and San Jose, Calif., for a little over a year. He told me the company is ready and rarin' to roll out to additional cities, but is "waiting on the green light" from Starbucks. He said he expects that to happen "sooner rather than later," but couldn't speak to specific dates or even whether it would be in 2014.

Also undetermined is how the receivers will be distributed. Rabinowitz said people will likely have the option to buy them outright for "a few bucks" (no more than $10, he confirmed), but that Duracell is also looking at different models for people to obtain them within Starbucks stores.

Although I got only a few minutes to try out the charging station with a Duracell rep, I came away feeling like this could be huge -- both for Starbucks and for wireless-charging technology, which has yet to achieve critical mass owing to the bulky add-on cases and expensive charging mats most solutions require. An inexpensive plug-in receiver coupled with ubiquitous charging stations might just change the whole landscape. It'll probably move more coffee, too.

What are your thoughts? Would you detour to Starbucks if it meant you could easily recharge your smartphone?

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