If one of the prevailing phrases of the late 2000s/early 2010s was "there's an app for that," then the 2017 version would probably be "there's a shared economy app for that."
First we saw the rise of ride sharing services like Uber (later acquired by Didi in China). Then bike sharing services like Mobike and Ofo took the Middle Kingdom by storm, causing congestion and crackdowns.
But those apps were just the tip of the iceberg. These days, China's sharing economy fad seems to have taken a turn for the ridiculous with recent debut of umbrella, basketball and phone battery sharing startups. Seriously.
Here's a look at some of the things you can now rent with sharing apps in China.
At least two umbrella share services have popped up in China in recent months, just in time for the plum rain season: Molisan and Hujie Web. Shanghai-based startup Molisan has already begun trial runs in Guangzhou and Fuzhou, Sixth Tone reports.
It's like Uber, but for umbrellas.
For as little as a RMB20 deposit and fee of RMB2 per day, Molisan users can rent out the company's bright orange umbrellas by scanning a QR code and returning it at a later time. The umbrellas can already be found at all stations outside Fuzhou's Metro Line 1.
Hujie Web, meanwhile, offers umbrellas in addition to other items on its platform, which puts unused items — think bikes, briefcases and more — up for rent. Weibo users recently expressed amusement at the sight of Hujie umbrellas locked to fences.
A Zhejiang company has debuted a basketball sharing service.
Zhulegeqiu, which debuted at a university in Jiaxing, is a WeChat Mini Program that allows people to scan a code and rent a basketball from a vending machine-esque stand. The balls can be rented out for RMB1.50 every half hour and payments are made within WeChat.
Ganpai, the developers behind the service, told Beijing Youth Daily that the Mini Program has already been a huge success on the school's campus, and that they plan to expand to 23 cities.
3. Phone Chargers
Perhaps a testament to the proliferation of smartphones in China, a number of battery pack share and charging station services have recently debuted, with as many as 10 such services already launched or in the works, according to Sixth Tone. And at least three received millions of renminbi in investor funding on the same day.
Beijing-based Xiaodian completed a RMB350 million funding round on May 8, while Hidian and Feichangdian also received several million that same day, Sixth Tone reports. Additionally, Shenzhen-based startups Laidian and AnkerBox have been embroiled in a fierce patent infringement lawsuit for nearly identical services. (Laidian is also involved in several lawsuits with other competitors).
Similar to the other shared apps, users either rent battery packs or plug their phones into the physical charging stations that have recently been popping up at bus stops, malls and restaurants. The charging areas can be located through an app. Upon scanning a QR code, they pay a small rental fee through mobile payment apps like WeChat Pay or Alipay. The batteries can rented for as low as RMB1 per hour and then dropped off anywhere after use.
Of course, these services won't be of much help if your phone has already run out of battery, but that's a whole other issue.