An Enlightening First Ride with Uber

Uber iPhone

You know, I thought I had this taxi app business figured out…

Despite a lack of available comparisons between the Toronto deployments of Hailo and Uber, the differences seemed pretty clear in my mind — Hailo was a proper dispatching company with a better class of driver, and Uber a more sketchy operation trying to dupe passengers into taking a limo instead of a cab.

I had an opportunity to use Uber over the weekend, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t ripped off. Not only is Uber legit, but it seems to treat its drivers better than Hailo does.

Obvious Benefits

Let me first say that both Hailo and Uber are a godsend. I don’t often take cabs but when I do it’s usually because I’m running late. The combination of (a) not having to wait on hold for a phone operator and (b) being able to hop out of a cab at my destination without waiting for change means that I can get to where I need to be sooner.

Hailo has thus far served me quite well. I can still remember my first ride booked with the app — the driver and I spent pretty much all of it singing the praises of the service. That both driver and passenger can rate each other is empowering; it doesn’t seem like Hailo gives you the ability to call off a driver with a questionable rating but honestly, I’ve yet to have a bad driver.

Everybody’s Doing It

If there’s one fault I can find with Hailo it’s the declining quality of the cars themselves. Part of this is due to winter, I’m sure — there’s little point in a clean car when the streets are so dirty. But as more and more drivers sign up for Hailo I’m finding that I’m taking less rides with owner-operated Ambassador cabs, and more with branded cars from the big dispatch companies.

Enter Uber

It was actually Uber’s black car service that got me interested in them. I’ll be needing a ride to the airport later this month, and firing up the Uber app when I’m ready to go might prove to be a bit more convenient than the usual rigmarole of booking a limo 24 hours prior, then rushing outside to pacify the driver when he and limo invariably arrive early.

My test ride with an Uber cab on Saturday was short but insightful. I already knew that Uber takes less commission per fare (10%) from the driver than Hailo (15%); what I didn’t know about Uber was that they provide each and every driver with an iPhone 4S and data service from Telus. My driver also had the Hailo app installed on his personal phone, with a Mobilicity SIM. No offence to Mobilicity, but guess how many fares he’s missed from Hailo?

This same driver was also quite adamant that I could choose what percentage of the fare to leave as a tip; I didn’t see any way to alter the default 20%. It seems that your only recourse for a bad experience is to give the driver a low rating — either that, or complain to Uber after the fact. I myself am slowly coming around to the idea of 20% as a standard tip; I usually leave that much in restaurants anyway…

Redundant?

I was going to ask which taxi app you prefer (if any), but in downtown Toronto, at least, it may not ultimately matter. Most cabbies I’ve run in to use both, so for the user it’s really only a question of what kind of car you’re looking for and how you want to tip.