Review: Tube Map
What is it about the London Underground that's so attractive? Admittedly this attraction is mostly from people outside of London, but why do they have this romantic notion of the mass transit system? I've no idea either, but it's wonderful territory for a mobile application to explore. MX Data have the licence from London Transport to work with the data from the Underground, so how useful have they made this app for the commuter?
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
The short answer is they have done very well. I do have some small niggles, and it's mostly around the presentation of the map. You can pinch to zoom, and while it's understandable that there is a sensible limit to zooming in to the map, I'm don't know why the application won't let me zoom out fully and see the whole of the Underground map on the screen - it would give a much better overview of longer routes, and help picture the route and the map in the user's eye.
And given the orientation of the famous map (which MX Data have permission to use), the lack of a landscape orientation view is just crazy.
Putting those caveats aside and, if I'm honest, that's easy to do, Tube Map has some great functionality. The first is one that you would expect it to have, which is route planning capability. Given a starting and destination station, you can choose either the fastest route, or the route with the least number of changes depending on what sort of mood you are in.
Then it gets even more useful.
You can call up a display of all the lines on the London Underground to find out what condition they are in, be it "On time", a "good service", or something that's going to cause you some headaches as you get set to travel. This pulls in live data from London Transport, so as long as you have a signal (i.e. you are not under the ground all the time) then you'll be able to get a snapshot of the whole system and see where the delays are.
There's also a live feed of the departure boards at each station, so you can see the next couple of departures, and the time they will leave the station. Perfect to decide if you have enough time for a final coffee, or if you'll be legging it down the road to get the last Tube home.
Thankfully all this travel data is downloaded on demand - you won't stay connected to check the line status while eating up your bandwidth. There's little point in caching live data, although route planning is done locally so you'll be able to check this as you proceed through the system.
With the addition of the live timing and line status, MX Data have created an application that is both well targetted to regular users of the London Underground and also going to be useful and easy to understand for visitors to the capital city. Yes, it has some rather inappropriate advertising going on in the top banner (or maybe everyone in London loves Napa Valley Wine with their McDonalds), but this is a well put together application that just works.
One final point, albeit it's very much a trainspottery one..., where in the map is the icon from? Central line changing to District? With the Northern line one stop up and the Bakerloo one stop south?
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at