The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has confirmed it has opened a fresh round of investigations into manufacturers and sellers of various self-balancing devices.
Segway, Inc. claims a number of companies are breaching its patents, and has asked for powerful remedies to be enforced to protect these valuable intellectual assets. The latest complaints are levelled at Inventist (a company that is already subject to a claim filed last year), along with the makers of many of the best-known brands of hoverboards – including scooter giant Razor, PhunkeeDuck, Segaway and Swagway. Swagway is the manufacturer of about half of the 500,000 hoverboards recalled in USA last month because they constituted a fire hazard and presented a fall hazard to riders. The company was also hit with a copyright claim by Segway, Inc. in January 2016 (perhaps this explainx why they appear to be part way through an attempt to transition their name to SwagTron).
The latest USITC complaint can be read here, while a very good explanation of what it entails can be found here. We briefly reported this action was underway in our article back in April 2016.
UPDATED: this article was originally published on 1 August 2016, and was updated with additional information on 15 December 2016 and again on 22 February 2017
We’ve been asked about the differences between the Ninebot by Segway miniPRO and the similar-looking (but actually quite different) Xiaomi/Ninebot ‘mini’ model that is sold in China.
The short answer is the Segway miniPRO has:
stronger hardware (it’s faster, it goes further, it carries heavier riders, and it’s more capable of retaining balance as you ride across rougher terrain)
more features (too many to list here…keep reading, you’ll learn about them below)
smarter software (updated for international riding conditions)
full local support (warranty, parts and service by Segway New Zealand, or through our nationwide network of Dealers)
complies with safety standards (including UL2272)
The Segway miniPRO is designed to meet the needs of users in countries like New Zealand. The more basic ‘mini’ model was not.
Now here’s the longer answer
This is worth reading if you’re tempted to buy a Xiaomi/Ninebot ‘mini’ you’ve seen for sale on TradeMe.
The Xiaomi/Ninebot ‘mini’ was designed by Ninebot as a low-priced product that Chinese technology giant Xiaomi could sell through its vast online business to customers living in China. To achieve a low retail price, many features were left out. Construction includes components capable of safely transporting lighter riders only, and it was intentionally designed to attain only modest performance. Building a device to meet the price-performance metrics for a particular market is a perfectly reasonable business strategy.
Of course, no one is surprised when some units slip across the Chinese border, and end up being offered for sale in other countries. Such units are sourced from the retail channel, and have been activated within China prior to export (due to the geo-lock restriction built into the firmware). This is how come you might see the odd ‘mini’ offered for sale in New Zealand on TradeMe from time to time.
We don’t think you should buy them, and here’s why:
(1) Since the ‘mini’ is sold only in mainland China (through Xiaomi) and the manufacturer does not export this model to any other country, there is no official supply of parts or provision of service outside China. Not even through the official international Segway/Ninebot Distributor network, such as Segway New Zealand. We cannot obtain the unique replacement batteries, motor/tyre assemblies, knee-steers, etc, used in the ‘mini’ model. Sorry, you’re on your own. But hey, maybe you can get your hands on some bits and pieces from sellers who have pulled apart new (or failed) units that they’ve…um…obtained somehow, from somewhere….
(2) The second reason is even important: the Xiaomi/Ninebot mini does not meet the ‘UL 2272 certification’ for electrical safety. We know this because we’ve seen the original document that specifies the model it covers (i.e. only the Segway miniPRO). Further, in response to our specific question to the manufacturer about this, we were advised UL2272 approval was not being sought for the ‘mini’ (and never will be). Without UL2272 the ‘mini’ does not meet safety standards for retail sale in New Zealand, Australia, or USA. If you have purchased one here you might want to take it back to the seller and ask for a full refund?
(3) When it comes to self-balancing personal transporters, there is one simple equation to keep in mind: power = safety
All other things being equal, the more powerful the device the more capable it is at remaining self-balanced as it transports you over challenging surfaces. The Segway miniPRO is more powerful than the ‘mini’ and this means whatever your weight, the miniPRO is safer to ride.
(4) If you buy from any seller other than Segway New Zealand or our authorised Dealers you could be buying a fake mini or miniPRO. Alas, such fakes really do exist, as revealed in this comprehensive video. Also revealed are the fascinating differences between the quality of components used to construct the Segway miniPRO versus the Xiaomi/Ninebot mini and a fake. Another website shows how a critical component is precision-milled out of solid steel on the miniPRO (and weighs 71 grams), while the comparative part is die-cast (45g) with a rough finish. A second photo shows how a die-cast part can fail in a way that a solid metal part never can. Elsewhere on the web, this very nice Segway miniPRO teardown article illustrates the important role this component plays.
Just like fake luxury watches and fake Apple iPhones and iPads can be found on sale in some places overseas, fake minis can look near-identical to the genuine article on the outside…but inside you’ll find an unpleasant, unsafe and dangerous surprise.
Now lets talk about the Segway miniPRO
Compared with the ‘mini’ the Segway miniPRO has 2+km/h higher top speed, can safely carry a rider up who is up to 15kg heavier, and has a larger battery that offers 50% more range per charge. The clever software actually learns your personal riding style then adapts performance to suit you best.
Our favourite features found only in the Segway miniPRO are:
The height-adjustable knee-steer means you can easily adjust for rider height. At first, we thought this feature was only useful if you were sharing your miniPRO with friends or family members of different heights. But what we’ve discovered during the last six months of riding is how adjusting the height ‘tunes’ the sensitivity of your ride for the conditions, or even just to suit your mood. For example, you might find you can enjoy the best possible performance over rougher terrain with the height set lower, but prefer it set higher around town. Trust us, before long you’ll realise this is a super-useful “must have” feature!
The handy extensible telescopic stick is a feature you’ll find yourself using many, many times every day. Raising the stick makes it easy to “walk” the miniPRO along side you once you’ve dismounted. It is especially useful when getting on and off public transport, or navigating indoors. Just like a tv remote control, it is one of those features you don’t realise you need….until you don’t have it!
The knee-steer is completely removable. Unclamp and remove it in about 2 seconds to make stowage simple – especially when space is tight (such as in a car packed with bags when you’re going on holiday).
Learn about all of the performance and safety features of the Segway miniPRO here.
Buy the Segway miniPRO today from Segway New Zealand by calling 0800 2 SEGWAY or contact us at www.segway.co.nz
The Segway miniPRO is $1,995 including GST and delivery. You can pick up from our office, or we can ship overnight to you (some places might take 2 days for delivery). Our comprehensive NZ warranty is 12 months, and all replacement parts are in stock.