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Uber Redesigns Its Ride-Hailing App

A screen shot of Uber's new app. A screen shot of Uber's new app.
A screen shot of Uber's new app. Courtesy of Uber

There’s no denying it: The ride menu at the bottom of Uber’s mobile app has become a crowded mess.

That, along with the app’s frustratingly slow speed to load, and a four-year-old design have prompted the company to entirely redesign its mobile app for hailing rides. Starting on Wednesday, the company is gradually rolling out the new version to riders worldwide.

“This is a radical redesign and rebuild of the app from scratch,” co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick said during a presentation of the new app to the press. “We needed a new system to deal with the growing set of features that were sort of piling up in an older design.”

While still recognizable to an existing user, Uber’s new app design has a few notable differences. For one, the menu at the bottom that showed the types of rides a customer could request has disappeared. Instead, users can now slide through the options once they’ve typed in a destination, and then select which type of ride they want—a black car, a carpool ride, and so on.

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To make timing and cost more transparent, the app now immediately shows the ride’s cost and the estimated time at which the rider would reach their destination below each type of ride. This tweak is possible thanks to the “upfront pricing” Uber introduced recently, which requires riders to indicate their destination from the start. Uber hopes this change will get more riders to choose a carpool ride since they’ll know when they’ll arrive instead of being blindly at the mercy of Uber’s routing system, said Kalanick.

Ride destinations are also taking center stage in the app’s new look.

On the lower half of the app’s home screen, riders will now see three circles, which act as destination “shortcuts” tailored to the their habits. Over time, Uber’s system will begin to suggest destinations and types of rides. For example, in the morning it will automatically show the address of the coffee shop a rider always heads to before walking over to the office. While riders can manually add the addresses of their home and office, all the other shortcuts will be automatically deduced by Uber’s system. Similarly, through an integration mobile app Transit, if a rider’s destination is a public transit hub, such as one of the Caltrain stations in the Bay Area, the app will immediately pull up the relevant train schedule so they can more easily coordinate their travel.

A nifty new feature is the ability to link the smartphone’s native calendar to Uber’s app. This way, the app will automatically pull up any meeting’s destination, if included, without the rider having to worry about typing it in manually.

In the coming weeks Uber also plans to introduce a feature to make it easier for riders to meet up with others. A rider can send a location-sharing request to a contact in their smartphone, and once accepted, that person’s GPS location will be set as their ride’s destination. The idea is to eliminate those “Where are you exactly?” text message and calls everyone knows all too well.

One interesting new area of the app is what the company calls the “feed,” which pops up during a ride and includes items like a prompt to rate the driver at the end of the ride, and suggestions to order food via Uber’s food delivery service. In the coming weeks, Uber plans for the feed to include additional content, such as menus and customer reviews from Yelp if a rider is headed to a restaurant, for example, or news articles, or a prompt to open up the ephemeral messaging app Snapchat to snap a photo. It could also include special promotions relevant to the rider’s destination, such as store coupons, though Uber only intends to include ads and promotions as long as they’re helpful to riders, according to the company.

The company already began to experiment with ways to provide entertainment during rides when in January it introduced “Trip Experiences,” a tool that lets outside developers link their app to Uber’s so they can suggest content like short music playlists or news briefs.

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The app’s icon is also reverting to a black background with a white logo. For the last several months, it included a colored pattern in the background, part of the new logo and branding design the company introduced in February.

Most everything else in the app will remain the same, including the ability to schedule a ride and the in-app feature to submit feedback to Uber about a particular ride or driver. While Uber has introduced “panic buttons” in a couple of countries like India to let riders immediately report an emergency to authorities and Uber, it’s still not making it available in additional countries like the U.S. for the time being, said the company.

But the best part of Uber’s new app?

Undoubtedly, it’s the noticeably faster load time. You really can’t beat the satisfaction of an app loading up within a second of opening it instead of waiting for several moments for it to even acknowledge your pressing need to hail a ride and get somewhere.

The story has been updated to clarify that public transportation data is provided by mobile app Transit.