SEOUL, March 7 (Korea Bizwire) — After a 14-month run, a free smartphone power bank lending service with depots at subway stations across Seoul is no longer in operation.
Since February 23, “out of service” notices have been posted on the now defunct depot machines called Happyspots, as shared by Seoul Metro.
Seoul’s subway operator entered into an agreement with power bank firm FreeB Solution and began to install in 2016 what would eventually be 157 portable smartphone charger dispensers on subway lines 5 through 8 (152 stations). The five-year contract between Seoul Metro and FreeB Solution was to expire in December 2021.
Commuter response to the service was extremely positive, and contrary to general concerns expressed in some quarters, borrowers proved to be highly trustworthy in terms of returning the devices.
Data collected by Seoul Metro investigating the return rate of power banks over a four-month period (last May through September) shows that a mere 0.1 percent of chargers borrowed were not properly returned.
A total of 312,226 chargers were loaned out, and 311,966 were brought back on time, for a 99.9 percent return rate.
Despite the impressive record, insufficient financial returns doomed the project to failure.
The word is advertising revenues failed to reach the targets FreeB Solution initially hoped for.
An individual with ties to Seoul Metro said the battery firm involved in the deal had complained of financial difficulties, leading to the death of the service.
“Since it is a free service, the means of generating revenue were through advertising on the battery devices, but the ad revenue was apparently meager,” the individual said.
Seoul Metro said it is looking to remove the shuttered depot machines and as of yet has no plans to keep the service in operation.