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Need a ride? 3 ridesharing and 2 taxi apps considered

Jake Widman | Jan. 12, 2015
The time to pick a ridesharing app for your phone isn't when it's dark and cold, there aren't any cabs to be had and you realize you'd really like a ride home. The time to download one is well before you need it.

After you download the Uber app (free, like all the apps in this roundup), you set up an account with your email address (for sending receipts and so on), your mobile phone number and a password. The company then sends you a text message, to which you reply in order to confirm your phone number. After that, you create a profile with your name and set up an automated payment method. You can enter your credit card number manually or scan your card, or you can link your profile to your PayPal account.

Ordering a ride is quick and straightforward. The app opens with a map showing your current location (assuming you've given it permission to access your location) with the corresponding address listed at the top. (Check it, though — with all these apps, the address is often off by a house or two.) The map also shows the location of nearby Uber cars. A big black button shows the estimated time to pickup; pressing the button summons your car.

Uber offers several levels of service, selected with a slider bar along the bottom of the screen. UberPool lets groups of one or two people split the ride (and the cost) with others along more or less the same route — you get a 20% discount even if no matching rider is found and a 50% discount if they do find a rider to share your trip.

The second option, UberX, is a standard solo ride; the third, Black Car, calls up higher-end sedans or SUVs.

The Uber website also describes a Lux option, "the finest cars with prices to match." That option wasn't available on my copy of the app (which could mean it's not offered in San Francisco yet). The company is also rolling out a level of service called Taxi that will call traditional cabs. Drivers will use their meters, and the app will automatically add a 20% tip and a $1 booking fee.

After you click to confirm where you want to be picked up, you can enter your destination to get a fare estimate. You also get a confirmation screen that a driver is en route, giving their name and what kind of car they're driving, along with their photo. You can click on the description of the car to see its license number; clicking on the name of the driver brings up a screen that lets you call them or send a text message. (I used this feature to cancel a ride that I'd accidentally ordered.)

Unlike the other apps in this roundup, Uber doesn't give you a way to tip the driver when your ride is done; it just tells you your fare. You do get the chance to give your ride a star rating and leave a comment if you wish. (And the driver gets to rate you as well).

 

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