Starbucks’s Mobile Payments System Is so Popular in the U.S., It Has More Users Than Apple’s or Google’s

By the end of this year, a quarter of U.S. smartphone users — 55 million people — over the age of 14 will make an in-store mobile payment. More than 40 percent of those people will have done so through Starbucks’s mobile payments app, according to new data from research firm eMarketer.

The Starbucks app, which launched before the other three top payments apps — Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay — has long been the most successful payments app. It’s likely going to maintain that lead over the next few years.

The Starbucks app lets users pay with their phones and earn credits toward future purchases. That usage is significant: Starbucks said its mobile order-and-pay system accounted for 12 percent of all U.S. transactions in the quarter ended April 1.

By year’s end, Starbucks will have 23.4 million users in the U.S. who have made an in-store mobile payment in the previous six months, according to eMarketer’s estimates. That number is higher than the 14.9 million customers who are part of Starbucks’s rewards program, which only counts monthly active users; customers also don’t have to be rewards members to make purchases using the app.

The app’s popularity could be credited to its early adoption, easy use and a loyal customer base that has been incentivized by a robust rewards program, according to eMarketer.

Of course, Starbucks’s in-store mobile payments app is available on both iOS or Android, whereas Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay users are restricted by the type of phone they have.

Apple Pay is accepted at more than half of U.S. merchants, according to eMarketer. Google Pay is less popular despite being preinstalled on Android phones. Samsung is the most widely accepted — about 80 percent of merchants have it, eMarketer estimates — but it’s the least popular.

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