Meituan-Dianping is to discontinue its power bank rental scheme in restaurants just three months after announcing its launch, according to an internal announcement (in Chinese), which also stated that the group was discontinuing its Squirrel convenience stores. This follows days after LeDian unplugged its own power bank equipment and took it away.

This was supposed to be the next rental economy super sector after bike rentals, with money pouring in right, left and center. Significant numbers of charging stations began appearing early in 2017. In a ten-day period in April, over RMB 300 million was poured into power bank rental schemes. Cafe and restaurant tables might have a base station with an array of cables dangling out. Some were in the form of lockers users would leave phones in, the rest were large units in shopping centers and cinemas where users left a deposit to eject a portable power bank that they would take away to charge their phones on the go. All formats let phone users charge their phones for just a few cents (if they had enough battery to make the mobile payment first).

Meituan-Dianping was a relative latecomer, launching its scheme of table-top chargers in August, following investments by Tencent and Alibaba in other schemes. With a user base of over 600 million, the restaurant recommendation app with 4.5 million listed restaurants that could host the equipment was thought to have a good chance of making a success of it.

Hangzhou-based LeDian ceased operations and removed charging equipment from its 300 locations in mid-October, around the same time as Xiaobao, which operated table-top charging stations, and Hema Charging (河马充电, not to be confused with Alibaba’s 盒马鲜生 new retail supermarkets) also folded.

iiMedia Research released a report which predicted over 100 million users (in Chinese) of shared charging devices by the end of 2017, but that restaurants saw the lowest frequency of use of its categories that also include public transport stations, shopping malls, airports and KTV venues.

Frank Hersey is a Beijing-based tech reporter who's been coming to China since 2001. He tries to go beyond the headlines to explain the context and impact of developments in China's tech sector. Get in...

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