(Pocket-lint) - Addison Lee, not satisfied with being London's biggest minicab alternative to the black cab, has expanded its app-based service to cater for all phone platforms. Originally for iPhone only, you can now download on Android, Windows Phone and even BlackBerry devices too.
We've seen the app, now in its updated second edition, morph through various iterations, each time becoming more user friendly in terms of design and usability. As many of our meetings are based in London we often use Hailo, GetTaxi and Uber, in addition to hailing a black cab the good old fashioned way, so having another option a few taps away on the phone is always handy.
No more need to fuss calling an unknown number or explaining your location: just open the app, enter the destination and order. Here's what's on offer in the latest Add Lee app.
Easy to use interface
With your phone's GPS switched on the Add Lee app knows exactly where you are and hones in on your position with a clearly marked and colourful on-screen map. The "Pick Up" location cursor can be easily dragged around to adjust the pick-up point as you please, which automatically slides into the nearest road to ensure accuracy. It's really easy to use.
Next, tap the "Set drop off" box to open a search function, where a quick tap of the keys will source your destination. The app then calculates the route, although doesn't estimate how long the journey will take - which is something we'd like to see added.
Regularly used addresses can be placed in a "Favourites" section so pick-up or drop-off is just one-touch away. A home address can also be set so when out and about a simple "Take Me Home" selection will do exactly that with few other actions needed - a few screen taps and you'll be on your way. For users with regular routes these options could be really helpful as a time saving assistant.
If you need to go via an additional address to pick someone else up then that's also possible.
ASAP or pre-book
To the top corner of the app is a counter to let you know how long a car will be - Addison Lee claims the London average time is just 10-minutes. Alternatively, rather than waiting, it's possible to select pick-up for 30-minutes or an hour later instead.
But our favourite feature of the Add Lee app, and one that lacks from Uber or Hailo, is the ability to pre-book. For that 4am airport pick-up you don't need to gamble that there'll be a car available in the area to take you. It's possible to pre-book up to three months in advance at any given time of day. Well, within five minute selectable intervals anyway - but only Ethan Hunt would need a cab at 04:32 rather than 04:35.
Choose your vehicle
By default the 1-4 passenger option will deliver a standard car which, in London, is a Ford Galaxy. That means plenty of space, catering for up to six people - there's space enough for four suitcases in the boot too.
If you're feeling more adventurous then the executive car option (formerly VIP), a Mercedes E-Class saloon, will cater for four people and two large bags; while the hybrid low emission option, a Toyota Prius hatchback, can seat three people and one large bag.
Card, Paypal, cash or on account
Store your personal credit or debit card details on board and you needn't worry about not having enough cash available for a journey, with all the major cards (including American Express) accepted. If you have an Addison Lee personal or business account then the account number can be added as a payment option instead (if you want to sign up to the monthly invoice-based service then the links are here: Personal Priority | Business Priority).
But that's not all. It's now possible to pay via Paypal, by simply linking up your account, or cash payments are possible too. The app will calculate how much a journey will cost in advance so you know how much money to have available. But our preference for simplicity's sake is credit card.
Once a booking is made a booking summary displays all the details - time, number of passengers, vehicle type and payment method - for a quick glance over before hitting the big blue "Confirm booking" button and setting things in motion.
There's even the option to pop in a promo code at this stage (for St Patrick's Day, the "Lucky10" promo code will give you a £10 off journeys, available to customers from 7am Sunday 15 March - 7am Monday 16 March, valid for postcodes around the St. Patrick’s Day Parade area (WC2, SW1, W1)). Nice to have per-booking promo code options, rather than a single use code per account - if, that is, you can find any that are active.
Track your driver
Once a job has been logged the app will store it in the "My Bookings" section, where adjustments can be made as required.
The current job, when selected, shows where the driver is. Selecting this option immediately brings up a map with the user location and the driver's vehicle, which refreshes every 20-seconds. The car can be tracked as it moves closer on the map with an estimated time of arrival updating too. When we used it the timings were spot on, to within a few seconds.
It was really reassuring to be able to see how far away the car was and to know exactly when it would arrive. Tracking the driver's choice of route was quite fun in an oddly voyeuristic way. Ideal if you're waiting inside a bar when it's raining outside.
While Addison Lee isn't the cheapest service out there, you get what you pay for. The cars are always high quality, the ability to pre-book offers peace of mind, and in our experience the service is professional.
As a price example in our instance: an airport run may cost around £86, which is less than the £103 Hailo black cab quote. Uber, however, is considerably less at around £51, but that doesn't offer the ability to pre-book, nor provide a seven-seater option.
Overall it's about balance, what's most suitable for your needs, and whether you've got the funds. Having the option there, direct on the phone, is well worth it. It makes ordering a minicab almost too easy, especially with the ability to pay by card or account. But at least you'll be moving around in style, rather than sweating it out on the Tube.