After taxi-hailing and car-sharing apps, what’s next? Bike-sharing apps, that is. Users of bike-sharing apps only need to scan a QR-code to unlock a nearby bike, use it, and leave it parked in a designated area without worries.
Bike-sharing apps first experienced immense success in China’s key cities earlier this year, but its developers are also looking to expand in Singapore and other major key cities in Asia. With an increasingly stiff competition, the new craze is starting to reach Western countries.
As of the moment, China’s biggest bike-sharing names are Mobike, ofo, and Bluegogo. Each app has color-coded bikes that are parked in a public area in the city – that’s Red for Mobike, Blue for Bluegogo and Yellow for ofo.
Each app has almost the same premise, you use the app to locate and unlock a bike, ride it to your destination and leave it on the sidewalk after use. You have to lock the bike again too after its use.
If you want to use a bike again however, you can pick up a different one that is available near you using a different code this time. Despite almost the same use and premise, there are slight differences when it comes to their ease of use, registration and most importantly, their rates.
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Mobike has an English version, so it is practically easy to use even for non-Chinese individuals. Like car-sharing apps, Mobike also requires registration but it can be done either through a phone number or the WeChat Wallet. It also requires an initial deposit of RMB 299 (or around $45 in US currency). Payment is also done through WeChat too, but it also accepts payments through Alipay. Registration can be done in seconds, but confirmation from the app could take 24 hours at most.
Once confirmed, you can now use the app and unlock a nearby Mobike unit using a QR code. The app can basically track your route through GPS, and once your ride ends, you can simply park and lock your bike anywhere since the developers can keep track of it using the app.
Users don’t have to search for the same bike again if ever they decide to use another one, they can simply locate some good bike racks and unlock another unit using another QR code. Mobike also offers a bike reservation feature, allowing users to reserve a nearby bike for 15 minutes – which comes quite handy especially in busy areas where units are usually used up fast.
The good thing about Mobike is, it does not just keep track of your route, it also tracks the distance you covered so far, an estimated number of calories lost, and an estimate of the total carbon emissions you’ve saved by biking instead of driving through the streets. These trackers are actually great ways to keep users motivated to use bikes.
As of this moment, Mobike is widely available in China’s major cities, but it is also making its way to the European market – first in Italy, and possibly in the UK.
Ofo works more or less the same with Mobike, but registration only requires a phone number and initial payment is only RMB 99 ($14) – which is great since it is significantly cheaper and easier to register on compared to the previous app.
Like Mobike, payment is done either through WeChat or Alipay. Ofo also works fast, there’s no need to wait for 24 hours for users to be confirmed and to start using the app (unlike Mobike). Once registered, users can immediately look for an ofo bike nearby.
However, unlike Mobike, ofo does not come with a QR code – it makes use of codes to lock and unlock a bike unit. Users only have to remember one code to unlock and lock a bike though, but it is quite inconvenient compared to QR codes which can be easily scanned. Other than that, ofo does not have a bike reservation feature, which could be an added inconvenience especially during rush hour.
Another setback for ofo is its English version. Unlike Mobike, some words and locations are still written in Chinese characters, which makes it hard to use for non-Chinese users.
Like Mobike, ofo is commonly available in China’s major cities, but it now also serves select cities outside of China including Singapore, Seattle and Austria.
Unlike the first two bike-sharing apps, Bluegogo has a different registration system because it requires an e-mail address. It also has a full-fledged US version of the app, so it’s no problem for non-Chinese users as it is now even serving cities in the US such as San Francisco. The US version of the app also accepts credit card payments, and initial payment starts at $0.99. After registration, Bluegogo takes a longer time for confirmation – taking up to three working days before a user could enjoy its features.
Like Mobike, Bluegogo also makes use of QR codes that should be scanned to unlock and lock a bike. Unlike Mobike however, it cannot track the number of calories you lost and an estimated carbon emission you saved while biking.
As to which of these bike-sharing apps are best for urban travel, it would still depend on your location – considering that these apps are not internationally available yet. However, judging on its current features, Mobike seems to be the best option because of its ease of use, convenience and calorie plus carbon emission tracker.