if you haven’t heard the news because you were hiding in cave somewhere or travelling around the internet-challenged western province in China, the iphone has officially entered the market and is being distributed by China Unicom. It seems to be the perfect opportunity to jump in and finally look at the state of Beijing-centric iphone apps. I managed to do a market (app store) sweep a few months ago and spent quality time with each of these applications. First one in line is Beijing Taxi Cards (website)
What these cats did was take their keyring-style flashcards and reformat them for the iphone, not more or less! I spent a few weeks toying with the app and here are my thoughts:
I love the grid menu! It’s clear and concise, highly visual with immediate access to the features one need. The choices of colors seem to emphasize the “Tours” and “eat & Drink” sections but that is definitely not a major complaint in my book.
Listings (especially the F&B ones), albeit limited, have extensive and detailed descriptions with addresses, names in Chinese and English, map (offline) as well as voice capabilities. The implementation is extremely clean, intuitive and having a local map is also a bonus when there is no network connection available.
Embassies, hotels and shopping centers listings are quite comprehensive!
That said, as i mentioned above, listing are by no means extensive. To be fair to the developers, Beijing’s F&B scene is not easy to keep track off with all kinds of places opening and closing too often so maybe it is a smart thing to a smaller representative sample that is as reliable as can be. I’m not sure on what basis they have picked the ones they have at the moment but it is overall representative
One cool feature of Beijing Taxi cards is that you can add you own listings for reference with pictures, contact information as well as descriptions and notes so if you’re the kind of person that like to organize everything, this just might be the thing you have been looking for. I did find that once you get past the first screen with “+ add location” it becomes a bit tricky as all you see is a camera icon without indication that you should first take or choose a picture before entering details.
3- Language Guide:
The app also includes a short section of basic Chinese phrases/words to help one get around in a taxi but I don’t personally like it for many reasons. The basic words are included but the pinyin (pronunciation guide) is pretty darn bad in my opinion. Take “turn left” as an example, they put it down as “zoowoh shuan” which most taxi drivers in Beijing would have problems with. A more correct version would be “zoowoh guai” or “zoowoh bee an” using their funny romanization or “zuo guai / zuo bian” using standard pinyin.
4- Final thoughts:
- As a long term resident of Beijing, I can’t say that the app in itself is useful for me. I know most of the places and can get to them by cab without referring to a taxi card. That said, for visitors or short term expats that don’t have the time to delve in the city or the language, it can be invaluable. I showed to a technically challenged friend of mine who has been living here for a while and he loved it, he is the type of person that the app is written for.
- The content is all in English which is understandable considering their audience but it would have been nice to be able to search the listings in Chinese as well.
- Another possible improvement is some sort of update functionality so add listings that can either be within the application or in the app store itself or maybe even an online platform for users to upload new listings and share them.
- Include proper pinyin in the listing and supplement it with a pronunciation guide! The current entries are too confusing!
The app is priced at $ 9.99 which is a tad bit too much in my opinion. I think a price point comparable to that of their printed taxi cards would be more appropriate!The developer just informed me that the price is indeed being take down to $4.99 which is totally worth it!
App: Beijing Taxi Cards ( V. 1.23)
Note that the version I reviewed will be released soon with the new price