These apps were the subject of much speculation, particularly in the Mac Rumors forums, after Phil Schiller showed the myStarbucks app on the screen at the September 9th, 2009 "It's Only Rock and Roll" music event.
While the company could have combined the two apps into one monster app, it's apparent that they're for two very different purposes. myStarbucks is primarily targeted at finding stores (as if there isn't one on every street corner in America...) and educating consumers about the drinks and food items available in those stores. The Starbucks Card Mobile App, on the other hand, is pointed towards the professional coffee slurper who already has a Starbucks Card in his or her quivering hand. Let's look at the two apps in a bit more detail.
myStarbucks starts with a geolocation feature to find the nearest dozen or so Starbucks stores within a few miles of your present location, shown on a map or in a list. If you haven't had your morning coffee fix and need directions, the app will fire up Google Maps and provide you with driving, transit, or walking instructions. For each "official" Starbucks franchise, there are icons indicating whether or not the store is open, as well as whether or not they have Wi-Fi or oven-warmed food.
For drinks, you can choose hot or cold libations, then actually build the order a step at a time. You select the size of the drink by pinching or zooming, add the number and types of shots you want, add your special variety of milk, choose the quantity and type of special syrups to add, add toppings, and then select how the coffee drink is to be prepared. Want to add something else in, like Vanilla Bean Powder? There's a page for that as well. Once you're done creating your coffee masterpiece, you can save it -- hence the name myStarbucks.
If you want to know just how many calories you're going to pack in by drinking that Ristretto Grande Caramel 6-pump Mocha Soy Extra Chocolate Powder Sprinkles Extra Whip Caffé Mocha, there's nutritional info for each and every drink or food item in the app. Unfortunately, the nutritional info is only for a standard-sized regular drink, not the specialized order that I quoted above.
There's also a list of all coffees sold at Starbucks stores, listing the source, when it's available, a description of the taste, and photos. Food items are also given the royal app treatment, with photos, descriptions, and nutritional information.
Starbucks makes a point in the iTunes App Store of pointing out that this is version 1.0 of the app, and that they'd love to have you help them design the next versions. To that point, the company has a website -- mystarbucksidea.com -- where they encourage users to supply their ideas and criticism to help shape the future of myStarbucks.
Lest I forget, there was another app included in this post. That app, the Starbucks Card Mobile App, is strictly for those people who pay for their habit with Starbucks Cards. Most of the app is aimed at managing Starbucks cards. You can check the balance on a card, add money to the card using major credit cards, or report a card as stolen or lost.
The app definitely points in the direction of the future, however, as you can actually use your iPhone or iPod touch to pay for your drinks and snacks at 16 Seattle and Silicon Valley Starbucks stores. These stores, which are listed in the app, are part of a trial for electronic payment. According to Starbucks, you simply touch a button on your device to display a barcode similar to the one on your Starbucks Card. It's scanned by the Starbucks employee, and your Starbucks Card is debited for the amount you just spent. It's fun to note that one of the 16 stores is at 20520 Stevens Creek Blvd in Cupertino, just about a half-mile from The Mothership.
Although I'm not a fan of Starbucks Coffee (it all tastes burned to me), I am impressed with the two apps that they've created and the direction that they're moving in terms of electronic payments through the iPhone. Be sure to take a look at the gallery for screenshots of both myStarbucks and the Starbucks Card Mobile App.