When these Coke Freestyle self-service soft drink dispensers started popping up in fast food and quick-service restaurants I had three initial thoughts:
- Why couldn't Pepsi do something like this? (Yeah, I like Pepsi)
- Why is the dang touch screen so insensitive? (The newer machines are more responsive)
- Why isn't there a way to store my favorite drink mix so the machine "knows" what I want when I walk up?
Well, I am happy to report that #3 has been addressed with a new app for iOS and Android that allows you to create drink mixes and send them through the air to a machine. And it does it, for the most part, the same way I would design it. Here's how it works:
First, you download the app (duh!). On my Android I had to search for "Coke Freestyle" or "Freestyle Coke" and not just "Freestyle" because there were too many other apps with that name. Once you install the app you will need to create a Coke account. This is an unfortunate fact of life for pretty much any commercial app so just be sure to use an email where you don't mind getting possible spam. Still more, here's another warning: After installing the app it asked me to "authorize" the app to read my texts and do some other unsavory social stuff. This was not the standard Android app warning, although there was one of those too. No, this authorization page asked me to enter my newly-created email address and password again. I quickly exited out of that without taking that step, figuring if that was going to be the end of the experiment I'd just uninstall the app. Well, it turns out that you don't need to do this authorization. Doing the normal app install and creating your Coke account is sufficient.
And now for the fun stuff:
I created my favorite Freestyle drink recipe, which I call Cherry Dr. Coke. It's 50% Dr. Pepper, 25% Cherry Coke, and 25% regular Coke.
Next, walk up to the Freestyle machine and note the barcode on the main screen:
On the app, start up the camera by tapping "connect." The camera on your phone will turn on and you need to capture the barcode on the machine. Note the first time you might have to provide additional permission to access the camera:
Once you do this, the kiosk screen will change to display your favorite mixes, any favorite flavors, as well as some "recommended" selections that the Coke overlords decided you may want to try.
As you can see above, my Cherry Dr. Coke is ready to pour. Just stick your cup in and press the button.
The app advertises that this will save you time at the machine. Well, I don't know if that is always or even mostly true. I guess if you are really fast at having the app ready to scan the barcode right when you walk up and you have a complicated recipe it may save you some time. But the app only allows mixing three flavors, so those who like more cannot store those and if you have a simple recipe it might still be faster to tap it out on the kiosk directly. Also, the app communicates with the machine over the Interwebs, so a data connection is required on your phone. Your phone calls the Coke mothership and the mothership passes the request to the machine you are standing in front of. That whole communication process is pretty quick, so yeah, I guess if this catches on people might get savvy enough for the process to go quickly.
I'll need to do some more experimentation at other machines and see how consistent it is. But for now, it's a fun nice personalization.