“I’m wondering what happened to the Chipotle app,” Charles Starrett said this morning, referring to Chipotle Mobile Ordering, a free iPhone and iPod touch application that “allows users to order food directly from these devices, offering access to the full menu of options, including sauces and extras, saving favorite orders for later, and paying with a credit card from the application,” plus a Chipotle location finder. We and iLounge readers had noticed that the app had for some unknown reason disappeared from the App Store shortly after being released.
“Do we have the app around for screenshots?” I wondered. “I almost downloaded it directly to my phone,” said Charles. “I was considering having a burrito that day, actually, but ended up going elsewhere.”
It took a moment for me to process what had just been said. “I was thinking about getting the app to order a burrito,” Charles was telling me, “but then I changed my mind about the burrito, and didn’t get the app.”
This is what the world has come to: the iPhone is poised to become an intermediary between man and food. And that’s actually an exciting thing. As indicated by readers in New York City and other major urban centers, the sheer convenience of being able to submit burrito orders via iPhone rather than standing in long lines may wind up increasing business for a popular restaurant chain. Assuming that the app goes back on the App Store, that is.
In Japan, cell phones are already purchasing tools for real-world goods. Some can make direct debits from credit accounts to purchase soft drinks and other vending machine items. Many others include QR Code support—a Japanese barcode alternative that lets cell phone camera users instantly web-link to anything they find in stores by just snapping a picture; with the right software, you could conceivably browse a QR Coded menu at a restaurant, snap images of the codes for items you want to order, and send them wirelessly to the store’s cash register. You can try a basic example of the technology for yourself with this iPhone app.
Our hope is that Apple will integrate a QR Code feature, or something similar but better, directly into the iPhone. Standalone QR Code apps don’t seem to be satisfying U.S. iPhone users right now, but if Apple can tie this functionality into the iPhone OS and convince stores to try using codes on their offerings, the game’s over: people won’t just want to have iPhones—they may feel that they need them to be better informed about purchases, skip the line to expediently order food from coded menus, and so on. Microsoft’s been working on a QR Code competitor for a couple of years now; who wants to bet that Apple could beat it to ubiquity in a matter of months?
(Thanks to Jerrod H., Chipotle fan, for the screenshots.)