Searching for a power outlet under tables at the local coffee shop or next to the water fountain at the gym lends a significant inconvenience to the convenience of owning a mobile device.
Seattle startup AnkerBox is hoping to turn the act of charging your phone into a service by making battery chargers easily accessible and rentable.
A division of the battery charging brand Anker Technology, AnkerBox aims to make sure you’re never stuck with a dead phone. The service will capitalize on those of us who forget our own device chargers or portable battery packs and don’t want to be disconnected during low battery time.
Similar to a bike-sharing system, users download the app, locate an AnkerBox at any number of locations around town, rent a charger from the portable kiosk, charge up and then return the charger at any location.
Ben Grossman, product marketing manager at Anker, said the company is set to launch the boxes in 200 bars, restaurants, cafes, salons and gyms in Seattle, with plans for 500 by the end of May. A deal with Tom Douglas makes the restaurateur a notable early adopter as boxes will be found initially at Etta’s at 2020 Western Ave. and Serious Pie at 316 Virginia St.
Bars such as Ozzie’s on Lower Queen Anne, Buckley’s in Belltown and The Ballroom in Fremont have also signed on.
The AnkerBox charger is compatible with iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows and can be used anywhere. Users get 30 minutes of charging for free each time they rent from AnkerBox. If you keep it longer, the cost is $1.99 per day.
You’ll never be charged more than $30 — even if you lose the charger or decide not to return it.
“Being stuck with a dying phone with no way to charge it is a stressful situation and no one likes low battery. It can be scary to be really disconnected from pretty much your entire online social world,” Grossman said. “Traditional charging stations and outlets require users to wait or even lock your phones away, and so we thought, this is a common issue and something that we want to solve in a way that doesn’t inhibit how you use your device. It still keeps you connected and is essentially that solution to make sure you’re always charged and always connected.”
Max Thayer, head of customer development, said there’s no doubt that AnkerBox can find its potential customers in Seattle.
“There’s a generation of younger Seattleites living here, many of whom are transplants, who rely on text messaging to communicate with their friends, rely on Google Maps to find their way from A to B, and many don’t own cars and rely on Uber or Lyft to get home or to their destination,” Thayer said. “Personally, I don’t know how to hail a cab in the city of Seattle, so when my phone dies, I better know how to walk home or else I can’t get there.”
Thayer said we’ve all felt that panic when it gets later in the evening and we see our phone’s battery life slipping. Many of us just survive the night by putting it on airplane mode or turning it off or hoping to beg for a charger.
Having power in your phone goes beyond being able to call an Uber or snap a selfie with your dinner. For many, it can be about safety.
“We did an online Google survey recently and we found that of those who mark themselves as ‘really concerned’ about their phone dying, females 25-35 years old were three times as likely to be really concerned,” Thayer said. “And we realized that’s not just about being disconnected, that’s about personal safety. If you’re a young woman in this city and you find yourself cut off the grid, you may find yourself more isolated and potentially in harm’s way.”
A device hooked to an AnkerBox battery pack can be charged two or three times, thanks to Anker’s PowerIQ technology that allows for “less time charging and more time doing.” (For some hilarious illustrations of that catchphrase, watch the demonstration videos on the Power IQ site.) Even though the technology has been there, many of us still rely on trying to find a power outlet.
“Battery banks have been in the market for over 10 years and currently less than 1 percent of Americans own one even though everybody has faced the problem of their phone dying,” Thayer said.
The app will also be one of the first in the App Store to roll out full iBeacon integration, according to Thayer. “All of our boxes are outfitted with a Bluetooth iBeacon sensor, and you’ll be able to check out with your app entirely hands free. You essentially wave the phone in front of the box.”
Users in need of a charger will check the map in the app, which shows all the batteries available in a local network. If venues are being depleted of chargers, AnkerBox workers will run around and replenish them.
The first boxes will start being installed on Tuesday and the official launch is April 15. Promo codes now in the app allow for a free day of charging.
Grossman said expansion will eventually target not just the company’s typical venues, like bars, but also larger and more unique places such as sports stadiums.
Once they deploy the hardware fully in Seattle, AnkerBox will probably set sights on the Eastside of Lake Washington, and other cities are also in the plans.
“We have our eye on cities that rely on very much the same characteristics of the people and users that Max mentioned,” Grossman said. “L.A., New York, San Francisco, where it’s a young, tech-savvy crowd who pretty much rely on always being connected.”