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New app directs users to Shanghai restrooms

By Shi Yingying in Shanghai  (China Daily)

09:18, March 20, 2013

A new smartphone application aims to offer help to Shanghai residents and visitors who need to find a toilet.

Shanghai Toilet Guide will allow users to locate the closest of the city's 8,000 public restrooms.

Using GPS software, the app plots the quickest route to a restroom, its opening and closing time and the number of squat and Western-style toilets it has. It can even tell the user whether stalls have toilet paper.

Mobile media developer Nanjing Aixiyou Network Science & Technology said the program is a more accurate version of Ohbaba, an app the company launched in 2011 that covered 20 cities and attracted more than 200,000 users.

"Data on Ohbaba came from ordinance companies, our fieldwork and user submissions, but the source of this new app has come from the Shanghai government, so it should be more precise," company spokesman Qian Jing said.

The guide will be officially launched in May, but a free-trial version is available for Apple and Android devices now.

The app is available only in Chinese, and according to Qian, that will not change anytime soon. "There's no need," she told China Daily on Tuesday, although news website Eastday recently reported that features will be updated depending on responses to the trial.

Chen Weiming, who has driven for Dazhong Taxi Co for more than a decade, predicted that the app will be popular with cabbies.

"I once drove more than 10 km home to use my toilet after dropping a fare because I couldn't find a public one," said Chen. "The situation is worse in suburban areas."

Ten years ago, taxi drivers in Shanghai relied on copies of a handmade map of public restrooms, drawn up by more than 30 cabbies.

Chen said the app will be handy, but he urged developers to add parking information, as he has received tickets for illegally parking while using public restrooms.

China's first modern public toilet was introduced in 1864 in Shanghai's Nanjing Road, which today is the city's most prosperous shopping area.

Yet many residents still complain that hygiene standards leave a lot to be desired.

Davina de Smet, of Belgium, said she is unlikely to use the Shanghai Toilet Guide app because she avoids public restrooms.

"They are hard to find and sometimes there's no toilet paper," she said, adding that she tries to use bathrooms in fast-food restaurants or shopping malls.

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