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Wait. Uber Charges More When Your Battery Is Low?

Wait. Uber Charges More When Your Battery Is Low?
Meg Butler

Well, this is going to change the way that some people use Uber. If you also browse Reddit with your morning coffee, you may have stumbled across this post:

 

Did you know that Uber charges more when your battery is low? After this person posted a shot of two phones calling an Uber at the same time from the same location but receiving different prices, the comments, of course, lit up. Some people thought it was true, some people thought it was just headline clickbait, but then we looked it up and, unfortunately, Uber does charge more when your battery is low.

Why? Because people whose batteries are low are likely to be more desperate to nab a rideshare. And, Uber’s motto is: charge them more if you think they’re willing to pay more. Of course, surge pricing⁠—charging you more during busy transit times or in areas where there are fewer Ubers⁠—is one of Uber’s more well-known policies.

If you travel frequently enough to have to Uber on a regular basis, then you’re probably no stranger to refreshing your Uber request to see if the price goes down, or even walking a few blocks in the other direction. But, for some reason, charging people more because their battery is low, basically profiting on your fear that you’ll be stranded in a strange place if you don’t nab your rideshare now seems extra sinister.

But, says Keith Chen, head of economic research, it’s all about, well, economics: “One of the strongest predictors of whether or not you are going to be sensitive to surge—in other words, whether or not you are going to kind of say, oh, I’ll give it a 10 to 15 minutes to see if surge goes away—is how much battery you have left on your cell phone.”

Our advice? Bring a portable charger with you the next time you’re out sightseeing and likely to need an Uber, or have the person with the most battery life make the call. Or, maybe just take Lyft? We haven’t read any news about them charging more for lower battery life but we do know that Lyft doesn’t have as much reach as Uber so it’s not always an option.

For more questions about rideshare services, you can head to FlyerTalk’s helpful forum page for all conundrums Uber and Lyft, where you can ask questions like “what do I do if I need to take an Uber but I have way too much luggage,” or Uber and Lyft deals and discounts in other cities, just in case your battery is low, you’re desperate to get home and you’re pretty sure you’re going to have to pay more.

View Comments (9)

9 Comments

  1. chavala

    September 20, 2019 at 9:14 am

    I’m so confused. How would someone know the battery is low on your phone?

  2. formeraa

    September 20, 2019 at 9:50 am

    When you loaded the app, you gave it permission to access such info.

  3. Centurion

    September 20, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Uber knows because you give them permission to access your phone. Read your fine print.

  4. vsevolod4

    vsevolod4

    September 20, 2019 at 10:27 am

    The phone shares a number of details about its status. Power level is one such detail — because at lower power levels, the phone goes into “power saver” mode and this info is transmitted to app providers in order for them to adapt.

    But this is not “news” — this is from 2016, including the quote from Keith Chen:
    https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/uber-knows-when-your-phone-is-about-to-run-out-of-battery-a7042416.html

    Uber has made many changes since … so why is this being posted today like it is “new?”

  5. Violin1990

    September 20, 2019 at 10:39 am

    It’s true user’s are more likely to accept surge pricing when low on battery, but Uber does not surge because users have low battery. Uber only surges when people requesting rides exceeds drivers available.

  6. NishinomiyaDada

    September 20, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    And… its time to remember the ridesharing companies are not profitable nor sustainable.

  7. seigex

    September 22, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    Or maybe it could be better chance of someone not showing up for their ride or driver’s inability to contact the rider when the phone eventually dies, making the risk for wasted time on the driver’s and Uber’s behalf, that the reason for the change in price.

  8. lianluo

    September 27, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Uber is a bratty company with a history of such things, including tracking people after their ride is done. The permissions you give these companies upon downloading their apps is horrendous, I’ll just stick with taxis.

  9. falawa

    October 4, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    Hope everyone is aware that Uber tacks on fees at the end of airport pickups depending on the where. Airport, use tax, technology fees close to $10

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