I adore my iPhone. The more things I can do through it, the happier I am. Last week, on Travis’ recommendation, I got a membership to Car2Go, mostly because I can book the car using the company’s iPhone app.
Then, I learned of an even cooler transportation option with iPhone service — Uber. It’s a network of sedan cars and drivers, and you summon them using the Uber iPhone app. It’s faster than calling a cab, and since I already put my credit card information into the app, when I arrive at the destination, you just get out of the car.
Here’s how it worked when I tried it yesterday.
I stood near Waterfront Station and opened the app. Right away (see image below), I could see that a car was within a few blocks. You can zoom in quite closely with the app so the driver even knows exactly which corner to pick you up on, if you’re at an intersection. Just press the Request Car button, and — here’s the coolest part — you can watch as the sedan makes its way to you, showing you its real-time location as it moves.
I’m told by Uber that they’ll send a text message to your phone when the car is a minute or two away, but none of the texts made it to my phone — sounds like a problem with the Canadian SMS gateway, which occasionally does cause issues. They’re working on a fix now.
The app also shows the name of the driver, their photo, the car’s licence plate number, and their five-star rating. (Though the first time I tried this, the app kept changing driver names and photos — the service is still in beta in Vancouver.) You can also click the Call Driver button and you can chat directly with them (tested this with my driver and it worked great).
Hamza was friendly, helpful, and very courteous. The car was spotless and even smelled nice.
The pricing model is this: Your trip starts counting from $8 (compare this to about $2.50 for a taxi). Then, it’s based on both time and distance. There’s no tipping required.
At the end of the trip, you simply get out of the car! There’s no fumbling for your credit card (to start using the app, you have to give it your credit card number), no waiting for the cab’s system to authorize the charge, no grumbling (“You don’t have any cash?!”) from the cabbie, and no trying to calculate tip. (Another nice bonus: You can add multiple cards, and name them Personal or Business.)
After you leave, the next time you launch the app, you get a chance to rate the driver (incidentially — on their version of the app, they also rate passengers, so be polite! <grin>).
And within a minute or two, you get a very detailed email containing the fare breakdown, and all sorts of infopr0n like average speed, exact trip duration (to the second) and exact distance. It even includes a map showing you what route you took. VERY cool.
I do wish that the app would lets me enter a name or note for the pickup location (like “To dinner with ABC client”) for later documentation for tax or expense reporting purposes.
Only a few downsides — first, it’s not cheap — you’ll pay about 50% more than a taxi trip would cost. They do offer flat rates between the north shore and the airport. You also can’t book in advance — it’s strictly an on-demand service.
But overall, it was a very positive experience.
Now then. When will I be able to get cat litter delivered to my house via an iPhone app? 🙂