Hello and welcome to ColorWhistle’s new global mobile apps round-up series! Here we’ll be putting different popular apps with specific business models under the microscope to see how they’re performing in markets around the world. We’ll learn what works in each niche and how the best apps out there are differentiating themselves from the competition. Likewise, we’ll examine the design language and business models of these popular apps and their companies to identify trends.
Hopefully, this will help to inspire you for your own app and website ventures while also providing some interesting insights into this fascinating industry. And as we’ll see in this very post, sometimes looking at these apps will also shed light on some broader socio-economic situations. Such is the power of the smartphone app!
And for part one; we’ll be looking at popular taxi apps! I think you know where this is going…
What is a Taxi App
So a Taxi App is basically an app that allows people to quickly order a taxi wherever they are. The best of these apps take advantage of the built-in communication and GPS features of smartphones in order to streamline the process of being picked up.
This is an awesome feature in theory because it means that you can quickly find a cab in your area when you’re tired and lost at the end of a long night out. Unfortunately though, most of the established taxi firms have not taken full advantage of this and this has led to the emergence of one highly controversial solution…
So when you think ‘taxi app’, there’s really only one app that springs to mind. And actually, it’s not technically a taxi app.
Rather, Uber is an app that replaces taxi apps and also taxis by allowing anyone to start driving each other around for money. People can sign up to Uber by taking a 13 minute course via their phone and from there, they’re ready to start offering people lifts.
This has caught on like wildfire, mainly due to how broken the taxi industry is in general. This area of American government is seemingly somewhat corrupt and/or inept and it’s not much better in the rest of the world. To offer taxi services, firms need to apply for licenses called ‘Medallions’. Unfortunately, authorities decided to create artificial scarcity for these by limiting them severely in number. In Key West, Florida there’s only 72 for the entire city. In New York, a Medallion costs as much as $1 million!
This combined with other issues means that taxi drivers charge the Earth and are severely overworked. That in turn means you get picked up late by someone very angry and charged $50 to go down the road. That’s if they turn up after getting your name wrong on the phone.
With Uber though, you benefit from technology. You can actually see people providing lifts in your area on a map in real time and get quotes from them for your lift home. You then just tap who you want to pick you up and a kindly stranger takes you home in minutes for peanuts. They don’t mind doing it because Uber pays them up to $90,000 a year! Meanwhile, the company itself is worth $50 billion dollars thanks to its smart idea, fantastically intuitive interface and minimal design. This is app design done right.
Problem is, it has also caused numerous issues – not only devastating the taxi industry but also creating some rather serious health and safety risks as people are essentially getting into the unlicensed cabs of strangers.
If only taxi firms were as innovative with their own apps… so are they?
Well, as it happens these companies are now starting to catch on. ‘MyTaxi’ for instance is an app that works with taxi firms and reportedly has 45,000 taxis. It claims to be the world’s first taxi app and it even lets you pay by phone. Way2Ride meanwhile also works with half of New York City’s 21,000 green and yellow cabs – while Arro connects to the remainder.
But still, these are nowhere near competing with Uber, which is down to the fragmented nature of those offers, the more intuitive interface and the lower prices. The only apps that are competing with Uber for pure numbers? Well that would be the foreign versions of Uber. These include Russia’s ‘Yandex’, another ant-taxi app running since 2011, China’s Did Kuaidi and ‘Gett’ – the Uber of Israel.
So it seems that these types of taxi app are the future, unless taxi firms up their game quickly! Who new a little app could cause so much trouble?