March 9, 2014 at 3:43 pm

SXSW: CoolNerd Kiosk Offers Free Smartphone Charging Plus Music, Movies, Ads

One of the most popular locations in any airport, or indeed here at SXSW itself, is the device-charging kiosk. People will contort themselves into uncomfortable positions and cozy up to complete strangers if it means a few more minutes of power for their precious, essential devices.

Unlike what one might call “dumb” power kiosks, the CoolNerd Kiosk takes advantage of the charging kiosk’s allure to deliver music and movies to iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry devices, with all of the proper connectors sitting right there on the kiosk’s tray.

Basically, it’s like Redbox, but for for smartphones.

Intriguingly, the thing that people need — electrical power, which takes time to transfer to your device’s battery — offers all kinds of opportunities for promoting and selling things. If you need to power up your phone for 15 minutes, that’s you standing in front of the kiosk’s screen for 15 minutes. CoolNerd displays advertisements, and, in Live Nation music venues, occasionally offers free music, paid for by CoolNerd.

If you’re seeing the (wonderful) Neil Young, for instance, CoolNerd might offer you a free album from his back catalog, which it pays for (via Amazon and another unnamed independent distributor), and subsidizes by having you watch ads while your device charges. And if nobody’s charging, the kiosk displays an ad for whatever band is playing, as well as for other products.

“Depending on the venue, if there’s a lot of foot traffic, since our kiosk runs ads, the music would be free to the customer, because the ads pay for it,” explained CoolNerd founder Mark Unthank. “The artist gets paid, but the concert-goer gets the music for free.”

In addition to Live Nation concert venues, CoolNerd is working on airports and grocery stores.