Review: Next Bus UK
While all Windows Phone devices have the ability to act as a SatNav while you're driving or walking, not all of us drive. Some of us have to take the bus. While Lumia devices have the Nokia Transport application it doesn't have a broad enough coverage. That's where Next Bus UK steps in. Covering the whole of the UK, this app shows you where to find nearby bus stops and timings.
Version Reviewed: 1.12
The ideal use for smartphones is that they should provide useful information about your life, your people, and the world around you. That's why anything that helps with public transport, especially local transport, is an attractive prospect for an app – if done correctly. Next Bus UK is an appropriately named app – its modus operandi is to help you find the departure time of the next bus in your current location, and it only applies to the United Kingdom.
Next Bus UK begins by showing a Bing map around your current location, overlaid with nearby bus stops (there is a settings option to use Google Maps data instead). Those stops are denoted with an arrow indicating which direction along the road they're running. That first impression gives a certain 'wow' factor to this application, especially if you're in a dense area of bus stops.
That first impression could quickly be washed away if the app proved to be nothing more than a novelty and did not provide accurate information. Obviously, there has to be a reasonable margin of error for such an application because buses tend to run late. More and more bus services now offer real time updates to their schedules. The app's help page reveals informs us that if a bus time is shown as a relative figure – e.g. "3 min" – then it is a real time update. Absolute times – e.g. 11:06 – means that it's the ideal time from the published timetable. In my city of Kingston Upon Hull, I found a mixture of these timing styles.
Next Bus UK isn't a typical 'Metro' application – in as much that a panoramic structure isn't appropriate to a map-centric app. However, any bus stop can be pinned to the Start Screen, in addition to being added to an in-app favourites list. Speaking of the map view, it can be replaced with a list view, showing all stops in your immediate vicinity, with service codes, distance from you, and due times. Once you've chosen a stop, Next Bus UK deep links into the Bing Maps app with a route from your current location to the selected stop. This feature is essential if you're visiting an unfamiliar city.
Next Bus UK also lets you search for a specific area, on which it will overlay all known stops. It seems counter intuitive that this can only be done via a text search – it would have been much more intuitive to select an area by tapping on the map. Being restricted to just typing in a text search requires you to have some local knowledge, as cities can have duplicate street names, and so it helps to have some knowledge of local post codes. Actually, entering post codes, rather than street names, seems to yield the best results.
To navigate a public transport system, knowing the route of a bus would be particularly useful. Unfortunately, Next Bus UK does not support this in the application itself. However, there is a menu option to search for local bus maps, which are then downloaded from the corresponding bus operator's website as a PDF file. A problem I found in my city was that there are two bus services in operation, but the app only seemed aware of one of them.
One of the benefits of having a public transport application is to make the complicated routing and timing information more digestible. Having to download a PDF feels like a missed opportunity. PDF files will most certainly be a larger download than the text based data that an app would be getting from a bus operator's API too, which affects how quickly you can get at the information and your mobile data cap.
As indicated in the latter part of this review, there are features that I would like to see in Next Bus UK. I also feel that the user interface makes it quite challenging to find all of the features. Despite all of that, it is a genuinely useful application that I would not be without on any Windows Phone device. On several occasions it has helped me make decisions on which bus and which stop to use in various locations. If you're the tech support person in a family of Windows Phone users, you can easily set up tiles for the bus stops that your relatives regularly use.
You can find Next Bus UK in our AAWP App Directory. It costs, £1.49 / $1.99 / €1.99
Reviewed by David Gilson at