Netbus: an app for commuters

There has been a lot of hype lately about the new social bus tracking app called Moovit but what most people probably haven't heard about yet, unless you follow the tech news is a new app called Netbus.

What this app does is it tracks where buses are at all times. So when I'm leaving for work in the morning I just dial in the bus number that I'm planning to take and the app will list the stops in order of how close they are to you.  Picking the stop that you want to catch the bus at and the direction that you want to take the bus in will show you the map of the bus stop's location and at the top of the screen is a count down until the bus will arrive.

You may be wondering how this works and what makes this app so much more accurate than Moovit or any other transit apps that you could be using. According to an article on Ynet Netbus has an agreement with the transpiration ministry in Israel that every bus has to have a GPS on it and that GPS has to check into the app every 15 seconds. This means no more relying on users to check in on a bus on Moovit (which lets be honest no one did) and that the drivers don't have to check in when they pass a stop (which they didn't really on moovit) which leaves you with no guess work as to when and where your bus is.

A feature that I have not had the chance to test out yet, but I will update when I do is that you can tell the app to alert you before the bus comes. Lets say that it takes you 5 minutes to get to the bus stop so you can tell Netbus to alert you 10 minutes before the bus comes so you have enough time to get there before it does!

You can see the bus schedules for lines, stops favorite a line that you take often so that you can get to it quickly. If you went somewhere yesterday and can't remember exactly how you got there Netbus has a history to show you what bus lines and stops you looked at.  The only really helpful feature that seems to be missing is the ability to plan a trip that would take you on multiple lines, but I'm sure that is in the works.

There are a few down sides to this app that I'm sure with time will be worked out. First main thing that I found was that this app does not have an English option, while there are no menus or really complicated things going on I would like to see an English version in the near future to give all those who don't read Hebrew the ability to use the app. Like Moovit it doesn't have a very nice GUI, the buttons look like a developer put it together. The font is a standard Ariel and when you are looking at the stop list is a little too small making it hard to read. The dark colors also make using this app a challenge in the bright sun light.

They even took the guess work out of where the bus stop is, in Moovit you have to try every little orange flag until you find the one with the bus line that you want, but here its working the other way around. When you know which bus you want to take and where you want to take it to, all you have to do is look up the line number and the app will tell you roughly how far from you the bus stop is! Plus the map only shows the desired bus line so if you aren't sure where you're bus stops you can select one of the little buses it tells you the bus stop name and direction that the bus is going in.

On the topic of bus stop icons, a very key feature that is driving me away from this app is that there is no way for me to see which buses stop at a given bus stop and when each one of the buses are going to arrive. I run into this problem on my way home from work, on the way in I search for a single bus because I want to get there as quickly as possible but on the way home I want to be on the first bus that comes. It doesn't matter which of the 3 bus lines I take I just want to start moving towards home. With Netbus the only way for me to see which bus is coming sooner is to search for each bus individually which can be very tedious.

I do like that the app is much lighter than Moovit and doesn't ask me to be sure I want to exit when I leave and especially like that it doesn't stay running in the background like Moovit draining my battery. I can see a lot of potential for this app and hope that they keep it moving forward because as a daily commuter these apps are the best tool you can carry.

Netbus has a lot of catching up to do since Moovit has been boasting that they just hit 2 million users, but with an app that works as well as this they shouldn't stay behind for too much longer.

The app is available for both iPhone and Android (even you Gingerbread users!)

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