Starbucks for iOS review: Serious Starbucks fans will love the perks

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.1
  • Installation and Setup: 9.0
  • Features and Support: 8.0
  • Interface: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:

The Good The Starbucks app has a clean design and enough rewards to keep you using it instead of your wallet.

The Bad You can't personalize the amount of money you load on the app, which is restrictive for infrequent shoppers.

The Bottom Line The Starbucks app gets mobile payments right, but it's best for loyal customers.

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Starbucks hopes that when you're ready to buy a cup of coffee at one of their cafes, you'll put away your wallet and instead use the Starbucks app (iOS | Android), which lets you pay for your drinks and food by scanning your phone's screen at the register. The app also rewards you for using it, with perks such as free drinks and other discounts. Of all the mobile payment options I've used, this is one of the easiest.

While I am not on a first-name basis with my local barista, I've been heading to Starbucks at least a few times a week for the last few years. Over the last several months, I've been testing out the app to see if it's really worth using. I'll say that it's easy to use and the perks are nice, but it's not so foolproof that I don't still reach for my wallet when it comes time to pay. Unless you visit Starbucks daily (or nearly so) for a caffeine fix, the app won't really affect your experience at the coffee chain.

Design

One of the only places you'll notice any significant difference between iOS and Android apps is in the design. There's not much to say about the Android app's design -- it's very simple, has a lot of empty space, and is a bit boring.

On the other hand, the iOS app recently got a refreshed look for iOS 7 and sports a sleek, flat design with a dashboard on information on the main screen. It looks far more polished and colorful than the Android app. I hope Starbucks updates its Android title to make it more modern.

Set up your card

Like most apps these days, you'll need to create an account to use the Starbucks apps. This is especially important, because your account tracks your purchases, which helps you earn perks (more on that later). You can create a new account with Facebook on Starbucks' website, or with an email and password in the apps.

The app is really just a digital gift card. You can either add an existing card to the account and reload it when the balance empties, or you can have the app issue a new digital card that you load up with money.

starbucks-ios-pay.jpg
The Starbucks app works as a digital gift card, that the cashier scans to pay for your order. Screenshots by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You'll want to add a payment method to the app so that you can top off your card when needed. Starbucks accepts all major credit cards and PayPal. It's up to you if you want your card to automatically reload when your balance dips below a certain amount, or if you want to manually add money. To add money, you must choose one of the predetermined amounts, which start at $10 and go up in $5 increments to $100. There's no way to enter a custom amount, which is disappointing.

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Where to Buy

Starbucks (iOS)

Part Number: id331177714

Free

Quick Specifications See All

  • Category Shopping, dining, and lifestyle
  • Compatibility iOS