Booking a minicab in London can be bit of a trying affair. You phone up and try to make yourself heard as clearly as possible to the nice person at the minicab office, but always end up never quite sure if the controller has got your details and location correct after you've put the phone down.
ubiCabs is an app for iOS and Android that aims to make the process of booking a cab that bit easier by providing you a list of minicabs in your area along with a price for your journey – putting you in the driving seat.
Let's face it, though, with plenty of competitor apps out there ranging from the likes of the black cab-focused Hailo, through to offerings from high-end private car companies like Addison Lee, is ubiCabs worth a download?
First things first, ubiCabs only covers cabs in London (and London Airports) as well as some surrounding areas (parts of Middlesex and Essex, for example), so its appeal is currently limited to those who mainly live in or fairly close to the capital or those who are visiting it. However, ubiCabs says it is steadily expanding its coverage to other areas.
The app works in a similar way to other taxi booking apps we've used. It uses GPS to work out your location, but you can edit the house number and street name if it hasn’t got it quite right. You then set the time and date you want to be picked up at, select the type of car, ranging from standard saloon to a large MPV, and then hit the 'Confirm Pick Up 'button.
The map then reappears and you can either select your drop-off point or search for it. Once you've finished this step you're presented with a quote for the journey and, if you're happy, you can tap the 'Book Now' button to confirm the job.
You can pay either by cash direct to the driver, using a ubiCabs account that you've loaded with credit or via a Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card. It's all pretty straight forward stuff and really easy to use. However, there are a few annoyances.
On the Android app that we trialled, it didn’t recognise the names of most London Tube and train stations (apart from the very large stations), which was annoying.
When we tried the app out on a couple of journeys around London we found the companies it suggested to be pretty mixed too. The first time we used it the taxi failed to turn up on time so we had to call the minicab company direct. They said the car was on its way, but then phoned back a few minutes later to say it had broken down. As a replacement car would have taken too long to arrive we phoned our local minicab firm who sent a car within five minutes. The second time, using it in central London, I had no problems and the cab turned up very soon after making the booking.
However, we did find cabs booked through the app were a fair bit more expensive than what we get from our local cab company direct. For example, from an East London address to Stansted airport our local firm charges a set price of £35, while on ubiCabs the quote was £41.63. On a local journey we regularly make the fare is £5 with our usual cab company, but ubiCabs was quoting £7.55 for the same journey.
ubiCabs can be quick and easy to use, but it also has a number of issues that need to be ironed out including its poor recognition of London Tube and train stations and an annoying habit of suggesting Indian locations. Our experience also suggests it needs tighter vetting of the quality of some of the cab companies it uses and to lower some of its fares too.