A new crop of scooter startups have emerged hoping to capitalize on the popularity of dockless rental services like Bird and Lime. The latest is Unicorn, a stylish $699 electric scooter from the co-creator of gadget tracker Tile.
Based in Austin, Texas, Unicorn wants to be a scooter company for people who would rather own than share. In addition to having a striking profile — the all-white look is really something — the scooter also comes with a lot of high-tech bells and whistles, like GPS tracking and smartphone-enabled locking. Naturally this also includes integration with Tile, which uses Bluetooth to track easily lost items, like a wallet, keys, or phone.
“I am currently fulfilling the dream I had years ago at Tile of putting item locating ability into everything, and at Unicorn we are doing that with electric scooters,” Evans said via e-mail. “By integrating Tile into our Unicorns, we are pushing Tile’s mission forward while also providing the easiest to use electric scooter on the market.”
Despite its flashy look, the Unicorn’s specs are fairly standard for an electric kick scooter. The scooter is manufactured in partnership with Segway/Ninebot, which is one of the biggest scooter makers in the world. The Unicorn has a maximum speed of 15 mph, a range of 10-15 miles, a 300 watt motor, and a 187 WH battery that takes 3.5 hours to charge. It weighs 28 pounds and can fold in half for easy storage. It’s priced at $699, which has been discounted to $549 as an introductory promotion.
But at $699, Unicorn is hoping to hit a price point that’s slightly more expensive than most Xiaomi scooters you might find on Amazon, but not as expensive as some of the more rugged, powerful scooters hitting the market.
So what about those bells and whistles? After you download the Unicorn app — of course there’s an app — the scooter will unlock and the light will turn on as soon as you get within 10 feet. When you’re done, the scooter will go into “armed mode” and won’t ride or move for anyone else. That said, you can still share access with someone else if you feel like sharing. The app allows you to share the scooter with two other people, or an unlimited number using a feature called UnicornCare.
Because everything needs to be a subscription, UnicornCare gives customers access to a range of additional services for $29.99 a month. These include free repairs, replacements if the scooter is lost or stolen (with a $49 deductible), realtime LTE GPS tracking, unlimited sharing, and premium customer support.
This shouldn’t come as a total shock. Evans’ other company, Tile, recently released its own subscription service, Tile Premium. For $29.99 a year or $2.99, customers get an unlimited number of Tile devices, extended warranties, and other premium features. As The Verge’s Ashley Carman wisely notes, subscriptions are one of the only ways gadget makers can hope to post profits.
The scooter sharing services like Bird and Lime are struggling to make their unit economics work. But Evans thinks personally owned scooters still have a long runway, especially as some of the smaller sharing companies falter.
“Building a quality product and lasting brand takes a lot more work than placing an order on Alibaba and slapping a your new hip logo and forgettable four letter company name on the side,” he said. “It’s about focusing on the customers’ wants and needs and finding the best way to address them. How you get there should be incidental to that goal.”