The bike-sharing battle between ofo and Mobike is in full heat in China. Now, with new player Bluegogo, it is threatening to spread into the United States. Much ink has been spilled over who has the hottest bikes in town, but what about the actual apps behind them? Find out who are the biggest winners and losers in China’s bike-sharing app showdown.
Mobike, ofo, and Bluegogo all have English versions so the registration process was bound to be easy. The usual mode of registration for the first two apps is entering your phone number, but Mobike made it even simpler by enabling registration through WeChat wallet.
However, I ran into some problems with Bluegogo. The app requires an email which is somewhat unusual for apps in China. Next, I realized that the app was not responding because it is integrated with Google Maps which does not work well in China. I felt quite puzzled.
The next step is paying the deposit. Mobike’s deposit is RMB 299 which is a bit expensive as compared to ofo’s RMB 99. Both apps offer payments through Alipay and WeChat, so this means that the transaction is done within seconds.
Here, Bluegogo surprises me again – it is asking for my credit card information. I honestly cannot remember the last time I spent time entering my card number in China. But, before I reached for my wallet, it finally dawned on me. I’ve been using the U.S. version of the app! I then quickly downloaded the Chinese version of the app called Xiao Lan (Little Blue) which unfortunately does not come in English. After confirming my mobile phone number, I proceeded to pay my deposit fee of RMB 99 through WeChat.
After I confirmed my identity by uploading a photo of my identity card, Mobike informs me that registration will be completed by the end of next day. Luckily, my confirmation arrived in less than three hours and I could start my cycling adventure.
ofo makes the process even easier – the app allows users to ride bikes without having to wait for their identity to be confirmed which makes me even happier.
On the other hand, Bluegogo disappoints me again by telling me I should patiently up to three working days for my confirmation. Maybe we are just not meant to be together, Bluegogo.
Biggest winner: ofo
Biggest loser: Bluegogo
2) App features
One reason why bike-sharing became such a hit in China is because getting a bike is lighting fast. With Mobike and Bluegogo for example, I only need to press a button to scan a QR code to ride the bike. After the ride is finished, I lock the bike and the journey automatically ends. There are no extra steps involved.
ofo lacks this slick high-tech approach. After the scan, ofo provides a 5-digit number which should be entered into the combination lock. After the ride ends, users still have to remember to lock the bike and to stop the ride on the app. However, it is easy to forget this important little step and pay more than you should.
Another great feature that ofo lacks is booking bikes in advance. Looking at the number of bikes available on the street, one would think that this option is unnecessary. However, in some areas especially office districts, bike-sharing is already so popular that the bikes disappear fast. With Mobike and Bluegogo, you can simply enter the address where you plan to take the bike and reserve it for the next 15 minutes. You can even make your bike bell ring to help you find it.
One quite creepy feature that is present in all three apps is tracking the user’s routes, which means the apps know where you rode your bike and when. Considering that some popular Chinese apps lack proper encryption, this could be a cause for concern.
Unlike ofo and Bluegogo, Mobike also keeps track of other interesting statistics. Users can check how much distance they have covered so far, how many calories they lost, and how much carbon emissions they saved – it’s a great way to make you feel good about helping the environment and forgetting about all those privacy issues.
The final feature that should be noted is the customer service or the “Report” button which is available in all three apps. Users can use this feature to get help in case they have issues with their bikes.
Biggest winner: Mobike
Biggest loser: ofo
3) App experience
Similar with other apps in China such as food delivery apps, what strikes me most is their lack of originality when it comes to design. All three apps are organized in the same way with similar features. Luckily, the design is simple and the instructions are clear. With ofo however, I notice that the localization was not done thoroughly – which means parts of the app are still in Chinese.
Another more annoying feature which is also common among Chinese apps is that they keep running in the background. This sucks up battery life, and can slow down older phones. All three bike-sharing apps kept restarting after repeated attempts to keep them closed. Among them, ofo turned out to be the worst offender in using up my RAM, followed by Mobike and Bluegogo.
Biggest winner: Mobike and Bluegogo
Biggest loser: ofo
(Top photo from Baidu Images)