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Apple and Starbucks iTunes WiFi integration hands-on

Apple and Starbucks iTunes WiFi integration hands-on
Ryan Block
Ryan Block|November 7, 2007 6:17 PM

Remember how Apple and Starbucks announced their partnership to sell music to Apple customers through the eighty 'Bucks locations per square city block? Well, the rollouts have begun, and as of today iPhone, iPod touch, and iTunes users can roll into just about any Starbucks in Seattle, New York, and now the SF bay area -- all in all about 800-900 spots -- and see what's playing over Starbucks radio and download a bunch of Starbucks-programmed music. We got a chance to sit down with Apple and Starbucks folks at a participating location in downtown San Francisco, here's what we learned:
  • Connecting iTunes through Starbucks is eminently simple: connect to the T-Mobile AP. That's it. It's all done behind the paywall, so you don't have to fork out $10 to get online to use the service. (You can also visit apple.com behind the paywall, but not .Mac services.)
  • As soon as you connect to the Starbucks T-Mobile AP with your iPhone / iPod touch / desktop machine running iTunes, you'll see Starbucks music show up in your iTunes Store interface. (Hit the gallery to see how it works.)
  • Downloading a track was reasonably fast, but the WiFi kept dropping with both our iPhone and MacBook Pro, leading us to believe there were some issues with the T-Mo hotspot. The download recovered fine through multiple disconnections, but it took us a little over 7 minutes to grab a single 8.5MB iTunes Plus track -- so be careful before grabbing an entire album.
More info after the break; check out the gallery for shots of the Starbucks store on a hacked iPhone (of course it works) and from iTunes on a Mac.


  • Apple is also now selling iTunes Digital Releases at Starbucks -- basically iTunes cards for select albums that let you grab the entire album on iTunes as well as a bunch of bundled extras like music videos and a digital booklet. Prices vary: KT Tunstall's Digital Release is $15; Eddie Vedder's is $12 (but with a lot fewer music videos).
  • In addition to showing users what song is being played in the store via iTunes, Starbucks has also installed a TV in every location which shows current track information.
  • The music piped to each Starbucks is dynamic and is not being broadcast to all other locations; the music (and data) is moved through T-Mobile's data centers to each wired Starbucks location.
  • Apple and the 'Bucks is also putting on bay area-only promotion this Thursday and Friday: six radio stations will each give away 32 iPod touchs to encourage people to get off their drowsy asses and into a local iTunes-enabled coffee shop.