Review: UK Trains
Let's be honest here, if you were to look at UK Trains purely on the functions offered when installed on the handset, you wouldn't be that impressed. There's no live tile support for individual stations, you can't do a manual search, and platform information is truncated. But I still like it.
Version Reviewed: 184.108.40.206
What UK Trains delivers is very simple. It takes your current location, lists the UK railway stations that are close by, and lets you see the upcoming departures from that station when you click on the station name.
And that's it. UK Trains is not a comprehensive application. You have to have location services active on your handset, and there is no way to 'override' this feature. You can't search for a station, or force a new location into the code. This is strictly about the stations that are physically around you. If you're in Edinburgh and want to check on the London trains for a friend... nope, not going to happen.
Neither can you do what I think would be the second most useful function, which is to see an arrivals board for a station. As a traveller that's not a big requirement, but as an app to find out when a friend or relative is arriving at a station, this would be a useful function to have.
I would have hoped that pinning a station as a live tile would be a function in the application, but even that concession to the Windows Phone environment is not present in this version. Nor is support for the theme colour you have chosen, the large font of the departure platform being trimmed to fit in too small a column gives you the wrong information, and when you touch the screen there's a rather off-putting flash of a white cursor.
Yet in all of this, the app does what it sets out to do, and it delivers the information that you are looking for in a very fast and efficient manner. One nice touch is that it highlights delays for you. The original departure time is still listed, but underneath in red you have the new departure time, and a text message beside it confirming how long the delay is for. That's a really nice human touch that makes it much more user friendly.
So that's UK Trains for you. On one hand it's an idea with poor execution and vision that fails to be a true 'Windows Phone' app, on the other it's a tightly focused application that does one thing very well. The truth is somewhere in-between. And if that matches with what you need, you've found a useful app.
I do appreciate these smaller apps on Windows Phone. While the big apps with huge vision are good for the platform, the smaller apps are where developers cut their teeth, where smart ideas can grow, and are just as good an indicator to the state of a platform as big name titles. UK Trains certainly shows all those hallmarks, and it's another reason to love this plucky, albeit misguided, app.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at