Redbox uses kiosks for DVDs, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) uses them for iPods, & Coinstar (NASDAQ:CSTR) uses them to help us turn change into cold hard cash, but the latest entrant into the kiosk space is Motorola (MOT), who hopes that the vending machine will turn out to be a hit for people who want to buy a cell phone on the go.
In an announcement made last Wednesday, Motorola has said that they are starting a test program where they will be deploying 20 - 30 cell phone kiosks in select locations over the next few months. They have partnered with San Francisco based Zoom Systems to help provide the necessary technology for the vending machines.
This is a smart move by Motorola because the vending machines have high up front costs, but limited ongoing costs associated with them. By placing the vending machines into places like the San Francisco Airport, Motorola and Zoom can take advantage of desperate travelers who have forgotten their chargers, headsets or cell phones at home.
While many consumers still express some skepticism about making such a large purchase from a machine, consumer behavior is rapidly adjusting to the number of new self service options that we have. While a cell phone vending machine likely wouldn’t have made much traction during the 80’s and 90’s with consumers being more tech saavy and used to automated purchases we are seeing a resurgence in kiosk popularity.
The program will likely be in a test phase for the next 12 months, but if this proves popular, it could be a real competitor to the manned kiosks in the malls and the cell phone stores that seem to be everywhere. Vending technology is getting easier and easier and as more consumers become comfortable with buying a cell phone/iPod/PSP without having to talk with someone, I think we’ll continue to see this industry explode in growth. In the past people may have used vending machines just to buy candy bars, but with nice profit margins and low ongoing costs, vending is turning out to be a real solution for the hardware industry.