Mobile power pack sharing has become the latest tech fad in China following bike sharing and car sharing, according to the Laodong Daily. Mobile power pack cabinets (pictured below) pop up in many restaurants and shopping malls. As if overnight, popular places have become the battlefield of mobile power pack sharing competitors.
Battery recharging is in high demand in cities with fast-paced cultures. However, considering recharging services have been prevailing in Shanghai longer than other cities, it has yet to be seen whether competitors can become the front-runner.
Mobile power pack sharing competitors started to expand their turf into Shanghai as the sharing economy becomes vogue in China. Recently, this reporter experienced three existing sharing modes in Shanghai and found out that sharing is quite useful for consumers in a time of need.
However, it is still far from being accepted by consumers. Problems such as poor network layout, slow recharging speed, possible pitfalls in deposit returning, information leakage and electric safety risks still exist.
The reporter first tried a power pack sharing service provided by Shenzhen Jiedian Technology Co., Ltd. Jiedian has a wider network than its competitors, Shenzhen Laidian Technology Co., Ltd and Beijing Yidianyuan Network Technology Co., Ltd which is also called Xiaodian Technology.
By searching the WeChat official account of Jiedian, the reporter found more than 10 cabinets neighboring Changping Road and Changde Road of Jing'an district. Guided by GPS, it took 5 minutes to reach a cabinet installed in a restaurant.
According to the waiter, Jiedian's device was introduced in the restaurant in April. "No one rented the device at the very beginning, but recently a dozen individuals asked for it," said the waiter. Jiedian Technology is using a small cabinet which could contain six mobile power packs.
A mobile power pack popped out automatically after the reporter scanned the QR code on the cabinet by WeChat. Before this, a 100 yuan ($14.50) deposit was made.
However, a sentence saying "rent mobile power pack for free" is printed on the striking upper side of the cabinet. The WeChat account didn't send reminder of charging during the renting.
More than 1 hour later, this reporter's phone was fully charged from a 66 percent charged battery. After about 3 hours of use, this reporter returned the pack to the same cabinet and was charged 3 yuan.
According to the waiter, the "free" sentence on the cabinet caused misunderstanding among other users. In fact, it is only free for half an hour. Once it exceeds that limit, it will charge 1 yuan per hour.
A smartphone user scans a mobile power pack cabinet in Beijing. Photos: CFPProblems occur
Most mobile power pack sharing companies are following the same profit mode as bike sharing: deposits and rentals. However, for Laidian, it also requires users to buy a USB charging cable for the cabinet.
At a shop inside a shopping mall in Xinzhuang, Minhang district, the reporter found a large-sized cabinet installed by Laidian which contains 40 mobile power packs.
Laidian provides three types of ports: USB Type C, micro USB for Android phone and lightning used for iPhone.
Users must buy a cable for 10 yuan for recharging, as it is not possible without one. But different from Jiedian, Laidian cooperates with Alipay. With Zhima Credit exceeding 600 points, users can rent the mobile power pack for 1 yuan per hour without any deposit.
Currently, no matter which device one uses, renting a mobile power pack follows the same process: scan the QR code, pay, recharge and return. The pack will be fully recharged automatically in the cabinet. But problems occurred when the reporter tried to return packs for Jiedian and Laidian.
Jiedian showed the cabinet was not online, but was successfully connected after three attempts. The pack for Laidian was stuck for 1 minute and not taken in by the cabinet until the reporter pushed it forcefully.
According to statistics, at least 15 start-up companies have joined the mobile power pack sharing industry. Laidian, Jiedian and Xiaodian are the largest. The latest rounds of financing has reached or exceeded 100 million yuan.
Notably, two BAT giants - Tencent and Ant Financial of Alibaba - marched onto the battleground. Tencent has become the strategic investor of Xiaodian, while Ant and Laidian have started cooperation in free-deposit by credit.
Xiaodian is providing a desktop unit which is mainly installed in daily activity venues such as restaurants, poolrooms, KTVs, parent-child centers and metros. It is fixed and integrated with charging cables.
Users can recharge the phone after scanning the QR code by Xiaodian's App or WeChat and paying a one-time fee of 1 yuan. No deposit is required.
Based on this reporter's experiences, we felt that the smaller cabinet is more convenient than the larger one, while the desktop unit has high performance-price ratio.
Considering free recharging service is provided in many shopping malls, restaurants and places of entertainment, does mobile power pack sharing still make sense?
Hu Yanhua, a co-founder of Zhangchong, a mobile power pack sharing device developed by Shanghai Heyue Network Technology Co., Ltd., pushed the second generation mobile power pack into the local market recently after probing ahead with a first-generation product.
Demand is huge
In 2014, a co-founder of Zhangchong came across dozens of people squatting in a corner to recharge their phones, and then realized there might be a business opportunity in mobile power pack sharing.
"Mobile games tend to require high involvement of users, and 10 to 15 percent of batteries could be consumed for 15 to 20 minutes of mobile game playing. What's more, people would like to recharge their phone when 50 percent of the battery is depleted. We believe this is feasible," said Hu.
"The first-generation product was used to detect needs, which proves that the demand is huge," Hu added, explaining that the first-generation product could be used five times per day for 1 hour each time on average.
Undoubtedly, mobile recharging has become more important in daily life. Statistics show that in 2017, users of mobile devices reached 5 billion globally while the number exceeded 1.3 billion in China.
Recharging occurs about 1 billion times every day, among which 100 million recharges occur out of home and office. Moreover, there are more than 2 billion mobile power packs in stock in China.
It is widely contended that the mobile power pack sharing providers profit from nothing but the rental, deposit and advertisement. But Hu believes big data will also bring profits.
"No one could take the entire offline market, as it is quite huge. Everybody could get a share and live very well. For example, Wi-Fi Master Key is supporting us with big data online, which could help us arrange stationing precisely and guide users. This is our advantage," said Hu.
Wi-Fi Master Key is a mobile App developed by Shanghai Lantern Network Technology Co., Ltd. It can find free Wi-Fi hot spots nearby and connect Android and iPhone users.
With angel investing to Zhangchong one and half years ago, Wi-Fi Master Key is not fixing its eyes on the sharing economy but the offline flow entry of this mobile power pack sharing device, and more importantly, the coupling effects brought along by the cooperation.
"Mobile users are suffering badly from limited Wi-Fi network and battery duration. But this is now fixed effectively by the linkage of Zhangchong and Wi-Fi Master Key. Pressing needs of users, especially mobile game and streaming users as well as high-value users, are satisfied," Hu explained.
Indeed, recharging is a high frequency and in need of users. With such a fast-paced lifestyle in Shanghai, recharging at any time and any place is quite necessary.
However, it remains to be seen whether there is any expanding space for mobile power sharing competitors, considering some shopping plazas, restaurants and entertainment places are already providing free recharging services.
Translated by the Global Times based on an article from Laodong Daily