My experience using a taxi app abroad

What do you imagine when thinking about taxi applications?

The playing field is only getting more active with apps such as Uber, Grab, Lyft, Juno, Gett and others competing with each other.

In Japan, domestic applications such as JapanTaxi and LineTaxi have recently appeared, and from here onwards market competition is likely to intensify.

I personally don’t think that there is the opportunity nor the desire of wanting to use such an application here in Japan. This is because Japan has an abundant infrastructure of transportation facilities so there’s the perception that it isn’t necessary to pay for an expensive ride when there are other easier and cheaper ways of getting around.

Speaking of an app which is highly recognized around the world. Finding out how to use “Uber” only requires one to google it, but searching for other more specific information can prove to be quite the challenge (at least in Japanese). Furthermore, “Uber” can obviously be used in the United States, but knowing if it will work, if the price won’t be too expensive, and many other important factors can only be found out once you are already at your destination country.

For Japanese people, even if we try using a taxi App in another country, it probably won’t be available in our native language, so most of the app’s functionality will leave us perplexed.

Wouldn’t you be in trouble if you had to use public or private transportation apps if they weren’t written in a language you can understand?

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Israel where I could try the taxi app “Gett” for the first time.

This app has a very well-made user interface, which made me want to share my opinion in an article about its usability and its design.

At the end of the day, this is an article that only takes into consideration the look and feel of the app, so it might not be suitable for those wanting to find out more about how to use it nor looking for opinions on the quality of the service or its drivers.

So, I want to ask you, which is better? Dealing with a complex UI in a language you can understand or dealing with a simple UI in a language you can’t?

“Gett” proved to be an interesting example that made me think about this.

Downloading “Gett”

All you need is a telephone number.

You’ll get an SMS with your “Gett account confirmation code”. Once you’ve registered it, you’ll get and email informing you that everything is ready for you to start using “Gett”.

The registration process is very simple, but for those not used to handling foreign SIM cards, I recommend that you do it while still in your home country.

The app’s initial screen.

After the splash screen you’ll be immediately taken to the map screen.

The main purpose of this app is to ride a taxi, so “Express” is selected by default. As with “Uber”, you can also select luxury cars (Premium), large capacity cars (XL) or if the need arises, vehicles that you can use to send something (Delivery).

The visual aspect of this screen is designed to avoid users from getting bored. I was in Israel around the time the World Cup finals took place, so for a while there were soccer balls being used as the icons of the cars. This might have been because the CEO is Russian, or maybe because this app seems to be very popular in Russia as well. Either way seeing these icons while in Israel was very amusing. (On a side note, I really enjoyed watching the world cup all the way from Israel)

The taxi ordering screen

From the top:

・Taxi booking time

・Place

・Destination

・Price(By the meter or a fixed rate)

・Payment methods

・Write something for driver(If necessary)

The icons on this list don’t have an explanation attached to them, still, their simple to understand design makes them easy to be understood.

Even though my device was set to English, many of the places were shown in Hebrew. (This could have been because of my GPS location at that time but, since I went to the same place every day, I eventually ended up being able to understand them.)

Before the ride

After ordering a taxi, one of the available taxi drivers will come pick you up. Thankfully, this app displays the taxi’s arrival time. Israel being an arid zone is very hot during the day, so I was glad I could wait indoors for my ride to arrive. (Israel is supposed to be about 2–3 degrees hotter than Japan, but I could swear that this year’s summer in Japan was even hotter!)

You can also see the face of the driver that will pick you up and even contact him in case he happens to get lost. All this through the app itself.

By the way, canceling a ride is free as long as the taxi hasn’t arrived.

It is also possible to cancel your ride without a problem in case you don’t want to be picked up by a driver with a low rating.

A side effect of staying in the resort town of Netanya was that there were not so many people around. This made it very difficult to find a traditional taxi by myself.

During the ride

Once you get on the taxi, the app changes to “ride mode”

As I mentioned before, I won’t review the ride’s quality, but if I had to say something about it, I’d say that there were times when the service was wonderful, and others when it was rather “exciting”.

Getting off the taxi

When getting off, the driver will suggest different kinds of payment methods.

You can pay in cash or be charged on the credit card registered in the application, either way you can choose at this time.

I chose to pay with my credit card because I find counting foreign currency somewhat difficult.

Finally, the app will display a window to evaluate the driver. The evaluation is done by awarding up to 5 stars to the driver.

You can get a receipt directly, but a detailed statement will be sent to your email as well.

That’s pretty much it about riding the taxi.

Good things about this app

It can be used in Israel

This might seem like something obvious since the app is made in Israel, but the country’s traffic situation is somewhat special. The reason is that in Israel the Jewish Sabbath takes place between Friday evening and Saturday night. Since this period is akin to a holiday, public transportation as well as other business will also be closed.

Some Arab bus companies will continue operating as usual but the number seems to be very limited. Things can get surprisingly quiet and it might get hard to move around.

Fortunately, “Gett” is still usable during this time. Setting my UI/UX opinions aside, I was grateful it exists.

“Uber” can also be used but, with the exception of Tel Aviv, it almost isn’t.

On the contrary, the usage of “Gett” in Israel seems very high.

The icons and illustrations are playful

Taxis are icons because they are cars, but you can change the icons to things like rockets and helicopters.

A few adjustments on the settings makes the city be full of rockets, it looks very fun.

A little playfulness is interesting.

Simple and without unnecessary information

Transportation related apps tend to be full of detailed “convenient” information. But I think the way this app keeps thing simple is just wonderful.

People who are accustomed to seeing English or Hebrew everyday might not be affected by it, but for foreigners who aren’t it gets pretty easy to get lost in the sea of words.

In Japan, it’s pretty common for traffic information to contain too many details. Whether this is from the organizations wanting to be kind or from not wanting to take responsibility when something happens is up for debate. Regardless, I came to understand that as kind as it might seem to have this sort of information translated, having only easy to understand information that will not puzzle the user can be much more important.

Currently, “Gett” can only be used in Russia, Israel, England and the United States. But I expect that having an UI that can be understood by anyone will help it spread to other countries as well. Of course, it’s a must for taxi apps to tailor their services to each individual country, however I would personally love to experience this easy-to-understand UI outside of just these 4 countries.