Muni Diaries iPhone App Review: iCommute
The way I see it, there are two basic methods of attacking the problem of getting around San Francisco on public transit: chance and control. Chance, I believe, speaks for itself. Control is what the rest of us attempt in neurotic fashion, day in, day out. We use NextBus, iPhones, BlackBerrys, crystal balls, bat droppings … whatever it will take to inform us when the freakin’ bus will be there.
It’s a crowded field, to be sure. But what if, just what if, some augur of reliability emerged from the crop to solve [most of] your woes? Here’s a first look at a series of apps that we’ll review here at Muni Diaries. Today, we’ll look at iCommute.
The first thing I noticed about iCommute was its groupings of routes (1-10, 11-20, etc.) on the right side of a list of all the routes, much the way iPhone apps like Contacts and iPod use “index-scrolling” (my term) for quick access to far-off parts of your list. It was then that I realized iCommute might just turn out to be a must-have app.
Like many GPS-enabled apps, iCommute asks your permission to use your location. Yes, please. Every subsequent use sensibly uses your location without being prompted. After you drill down to the route you want, it automatically highlights the nearest stop on that line, and tells you how far away it is.
After selecting your stop, predictions for the next bus are loaded (and they continually update as necessary), as are “other buses at this stop” and a Google map. Should you need directions (despite the fact that the map tells you where you are and where the stop is), you can press a button to be hauled over to the Google Maps app. I’m not sure why you’d want to leave iCommute, but there you have it.
Another great feature, as well as something else that makes iCommute so much better than NextBus’s decent mobile site, is the ability to add your “favorite” routes and stops. This makes accessing information about those routes and stops as easy as a click or two.
The program’s inherent functions (meaning those that do not require network access) are blazingly fast — testament to solid coding on the app developers’ part.
Like many apps, iCommute will only work as well as AT&T allows it to. And because it’s caught in a vicious triangle between Ma Bell and Muni, the jeopardy is doubled (NextBus is perhaps a third villain in the drama, but it, like iCommute, typically works only as well as Muni does). Then again, iCommute is a lot like Muni, though through no fault of its own: When it works, it’s so useful and you love it. It only fails when AT&T or Muni do. Available on iTunes for $2.99, I think it’s a pretty good deal.