GLOBAL – It’s holiday season which means lots of you have booked day trips, weekend/city breaks or weeks at a time away from home. But how do you get to that destination? If it’s close enough, you may want to take a train. Here’s some train apps on the Nokia N8 that will see you arriving safely to B from A, plus I’m dissecting them a little to find out what would make the perfect train app.
Being a Londoner, I get to most places within the capital using the London tube network. So first on my list of apps to try is called Tube Map by mxData.
As far as apps go, this is – visually – an easy one to use. Your main page is a map on the London underground with its criss-crossing coloured transport lines, laying across the distinctive contours of the River Thames. At the bottom you’ve got the menu bar with various options, and it’s here that you can calculate your route.
Once you’ve hit the A-B icon at the bottom, you’re asked to enter where you wish to start your joiurney and where you wish to end it. Pressing Find Route >> will give you details of the journey, including any changes that need to be taken and giving you a total journey time. Plus it’s always a good idea to check if there’s any disruption to the transport lines, using the Live Information button at the bottom, too.
Costing nothing it’s the perfect app to use if you hardly ever venture out of the city.
If you happen to be travelling via Virgin Trains, then VirginTrains Tickets is for you.
You first enter the location you are planning to start your journey from, followed by the destination. If you’re planning on making a single journey or a return one, you can select the appropriate icon. If it’s travelling on the cheap your after, you can select the standard fare, otherwise hit the first class option if you like to travel in peace and comfort. The next page is where you can enter your return details – if you’re planning a return – and also the find trains? option to jump to the ticket ordering and most importantly, the prices.
Tickets can be purchased through the app itself so you can collect them from the ticket office at the station. Or, some journeys also allow for mTickets, which is an electronic version that can be sent straight to your phone for convenience.
I’ll imagine some of you are probably leaving the sunny (ahem) climes of the British Isles and possibly venturing further into Europe. If you are, there’s an app that will help you make sure you know all the time tables, through all of Europe. With Railteam Mobile, by Railteam, you can pick your starting point – which I selected as London – then select your destination point to somewhere in Europe – I chose Antwerp.
You’re then offered a list of journey times to select and pressing on one of those options will bring more journey information to your screen – including transfers or stopovers should they be included.
While I can see this being completely useful, I’d like to have the ability to book tickets and make the whole journey experience better. However, there is a map feature within the app which lets you see a floor-plan – or map as they call it – of some of the major stations across Europe, which is potentially very useful.
For those living in the US and hoping to get from one part of the States to another, Amtrak might well be the preferred travel option. And if you’ve got a Nokia mobile phone, then you’ll need the Amtrak app.
Although this app looks basic, it does do – mostly – everything you’d expect to find in a train journey app. You’ve got the ability to select your journey and purchase tickets, check the status of any of the trains arriving or departing from any station and gain access to the Amtrak Guest Rewards program that will see you earning points every time you travel with Amtrak, receiving rewards like free travel or hotel stays.
If you’ve had a good – or a bad – trip you can leave your review for the journey, too. All from within the app. Meaning that if you’re a regular Amtrak user, you rarely actually need to log onto their Web page.
There are of course many more train apps to choose from on Ovi Store and what we’ve chosen are just a small selection. While all the apps above have great features in one form or another, are they a one stop shop for train travel? Or do we even need a single app to do it all?
For me, the Tube Map looks the best, with it’s colour coded transport lines and it’s huge map laid out for all to see, just as I would see on the underground but it lacks the ability to buy tickets. For me, that’s not an issue as I use an Oyster card, but for foreign or infrequent Tube travellers it might be useful to have this feature.
Whereas the Railteam Mobile app looks like a basic text page that gives you access to vast amounts of information that’ll see you traveling all across Europe. For me, it does lack the glitz and the glamour that make it easy on the eye.
Having said that, a decent travel app doesn’t need to be pretty looking. Just functional. But having the brains as well as beauty is always a winner. If you pop over to New York and load up Nokia Maps on your computer, you’ll see there are trials there that allow you to navigate through the city using public transport. I see this as both beautiful and brainy.
However, do we even need an app to figure out how we get from one place to another? There are, of course, websites that can just do all the work for you without needing to download an app. If you punch in www.nationalrail.co.uk into the address bar of your smartphone, you’re taken directly to the journey planner page that does all the job that an app would, without the need of storing anything on your phone.
With the arrival of HTML5 – which makes for a much smarter web viewing, according to Zoocha – and handsets becoming able to read those pages, could we do away with separate apps altogether? Apps are able to run from within a web page powered by HTML5. I suppose only time will tell.
What do you think of these travel apps? And are there any we’ve missed that set a good example? Let us know, below.
Image credit: Noël Zia Lee