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Lyft Gives Its App A Fresher, More Transparent, More One-Handed Update

What’s more important: saving time or saving money? Now it’s easier to compare your options.

Ride-on-demand service Lyft is releasing a new version of its app today–for iOS at first, with an Android version arriving next month. The update isn’t about major new capabilities so much as additional polish and improved usability. And some of the refinements–like an exuberant “glow” effect that appears when you launch the app and in various other places around the interface–mostly serve to add personality.

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Lyft has never looked nicer, but other tweaks have a meaningful impact on how you use it. The company decluttered its interface so that the screen is dominated by the map. To ensure that the app was optimized for one-handed use, it also shoved functionality down to the bottom of the screen, where it’s still readily accessible with your thumb, even if you’re using a ginormous phone like an iPhone 6s Plus or Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+. (Using Uber, by contrast, requires you to tap all over the place, from top to bottom.)

When you request a car, a new pop-up aims to make it easier to compare your options: the standard Lyft service, Lyft Line (shared rides with other passengers), and Lyft Plus (vehicles with more seats). It shows the estimated wait time for all three options, letting you choose the one that suits your needs. “People are more sensitive to getting to their 9 a.m. on Monday than leaving the bar on Saturday night,” said Tali Rapaport, Lyft’s VP of product, at a press briefing about the app update.

(The ability to compare prices for different options still isn’t part of this initial process–not because Lyft wanted to conceal it, but because the app can only calculate fees if it knows where you’re going. The company says that user testing tells it that people would rather not be forced into entering a destination right away. And once you enter your destination, you can get an estimate.)

The new app also offers more emphasis on tools you can use once you’re in the car and on your way, such as the ability to send your ETA to someone or split the fare with a friend. And everything is designed so that Lyft can neatly insert additional features–such as a variant of the service it’s planning aimed at commuters–into the streamlined new framework it’s built.

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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