It should be a crime now for companies to spend money building new taxi booking apps. Other than existing third-party taxi booking apps such as GrabTaxi, Easy Taxi, Uber and Hailo, the government recently also released Taxi-Taxi@SG to better match passengers to taxis.
And just when we thought there were enough of them, get this, there’s a new one in town! The app, Network Uncle, created by local company S2D Solution, was launched over two weeks ago to help make it easier to get taxis, albeit in a slightly different way from current taxi apps.
So here’s how the new app works: passengers can use the app to broadcast their locations to drivers within a 3 kilometer radius. The drivers have to be logged in, and if they are, they will receive a notification informing them where the passengers are.
Drivers can then indicate if they want to pick up the passengers. If they do, the driver’s licence plate number and mobile phone will be sent to the passenger. Every broadcast costs passengers S$0.20, though an annual subscription of S$2 monthly entitles passengers unlimited broadcast.
In an interview with Straits Times, Steve Loh, the Operation Director of S2D Solution, said that the app will make sure that “taxi drivers (do) not to ply the road blindly”, and that they hope to have 5,000 drivers on the app by March. Steve also revealed that there are plans to have an e-commerce service on the platform, in which passengers can get discount codes from taxi driver (is that even possible?).
Will It Work? Maybe Not.
Available only on Android, there are several challenges for Network Uncle, and the biggest one is that the broadcast model might not work. Why would a passenger pay to use an app to broadcast its location to taxi drivers when there are free alternatives such as GrabTaxi, Easy Taxi or even ComfortDelgro’s app? The Network Uncle app also doesn’t show you the location of the taxi, a serious disadvantage compared to other apps.
For drivers, there could be little incentive for them to use Network Uncle too, since other booking apps have probably reached enough critical mass where pick up jobs are constantly streaming in. And with limited smartphone devices, taxi drivers will only choose to open up the app with the most number of potential jobs when they are on the road.
The number of downloads so far attest to the challenges of the app too: so far only 60 have downloaded the app since its launch on 8th of January.
In other news, GrabTaxi on Friday (23 January) has announced its new S$3.5 million welfare fund for taxi drivers who are active and deliver the “highest service standards”. GrabTaxi will make monthly deposits of S$300 into the fund for every driver that fulfils the service and usage criteria. Drivers can then claim money from the fund for medical, accident coverage and crisis support by submitting the relevant receipts and documents to GrabTaxi.
“We’re fully aware that our drivers work hard and long hours, so this fund will provide a great opportunity for us to say a big thank you for their efforts,” said Lim Kell Jay, General Manager for GrabTaxi Singapore.
More reasons for taxi drivers to stick with GrabTaxi and not new apps.