Uber Declutters Its App, Making it Simpler and Snappier

Uber Technologies Inc. is rolling out the biggest update to its mobile application since 2012, seeking to simplify, speed up and enrich the ride-hailing experience. 

Over time, Uber has crammed a hodgepodge of services into its mobile application: black cars, carpooling, taxi hailing, UberX for ride sharing, premium-car Select and Access for disabled passengers (mainly for U.S. services). The San Francisco-based company is the first to admit that this is confusing.

"I don't even know what they all mean," said Didier Hilhorst, Uber's lead designer for the app. "As we started adding more things, it gets a little more ridiculous."

Uber's new smartphone app. 

Source: Uber Technologies Inc.

The first key change is that riders will be asked to enter their destination upfront. That gives Uber's software algorithms more time to start whirring away, figuring out how much a trip will cost and how long it will take. Then, customers can pick what service they want and also see an estimated arrival time.

"Certainty in price and certainty in time, we think, will get people to engage even more in UberPool," Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick told reporters at Uber's headquarters, referring to the service aimed at ride-sharing commuters.

The Uber Technologies Inc. logo is displayed in the window of a car.

The Uber Technologies Inc. logo is displayed in the window of a car.

Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Uber is also introducing a feed, giving passengers a scrolling list of information and options while enroute. Riders can learn more about the restaurant they're headed to on Yelp, order dinner to arrive at their destination, or stream music using Pandora. The company has already introduced a separate app for UberEats, its food-delivery service.

"There are a lot of interesting things you can do," Kalanick said. "This is the first rev of trying to see how people interact."

The company is also partially reversing some of the design changes it previously made to the app, by making the icon's background black again. One important change might be easiest to overlook: Uber is promising that the app will be faster. "Sometimes the basic stuff is the stuff that makes the biggest difference," Kalanick said. "The app loads super fast, it's snappy, it's crisp and it just feels better."

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