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Uber Is Rolling Out Ride-Hailing for People Without Smartphones

November 21, 2017, 12:15 PM UTC

Uber is rolling out new features in India to help attract customers who may not be running very high-powered smartphones, or who may have limited data available to them.

According to a Bloomberg report on a visit to India by Uber’s product team, the ride-hailing firm will in the coming weeks allow people to book trips on behalf of others who don’t have a phone.

This “request for guest” feature will be accompanies by “call to ride,” which will allow people to book rides using a voice call, by reading out the codes displayed on signage at popular booking points. The latter feature is being tested in the city of Pune.

Read: SoftBank Backing May Nudge Uber Into the Southeast Asian Market

The Uber executives visiting India included product chief Daniel Graf, mapping chief Manik Gupta, and ride experience head Peter Deng. They apparently got plenty of experience of losing mobile connectivity, getting very low data speeds, and having difficulty paying for rides in cash.

“This trip is about immersing yourself in the experience,” Gupta told Bloomberg.

Uber’s big local rival in India is Ola Cabs, which has been around for longer and is currently looking to raise $2 billion in a new funding round. Ola has 800,000 vehicles in 110 cities, while Uber has 450,000 drivers in 29 cities, although the Bloomberg report claimed the two were currently handling similar numbers of rides, and seeing similar numbers of downloads.