Arriva M-ticket Review

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Nah, I'm good.

Speaking of disappointing customer experiences, I recently tried the Arriva m-ticket app on my HTC Desire (running Froyo 2.2). I remember being super excited over the prospect of never having to worry about exact change again. I told my brother just this, actually, and he said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it needs work. I did not know it at the time, but he was so right.

The problems with m-ticket on smartphones can be broken up into one of two broad categories:

  1. issues surrounding the app specifically, such as UI, functionality and performance; and
  2. general problems around using your smartphone as a digital ticket.

Starting with the first category, the UI looks good but it takes way too many button presses to get your ticket visible on the screen to show to the bus driver. It also isn’t very user-friendly. Combine this with a lengthy boot time for the app, and this can turn into a pretty embarrassing situation as the user struggles to find the ticket on their phone while an exasperated driver and annoyed line of commuters wait for them to finish. A more minor issue, but still a salient omission, is that it doesn’t include live timetables for bus journeys, which really is a feature one would expect to find.

However, the most major problem I encountered was that when I decided to send feedback via the app it hung on a loading screen. This effectively barred me from accessing my £18 weekly ticket. Rebooting the app didn’t help, as the loading screen would once again pop up and prevent me from doing anything. This, in the QA business, is called game-breaker, ladies and gentleman. It is simply unacceptable to have a bug of this magnitude in a public software release.

This leads me onto an associated issue, further compounding the seriousness of the bug. Account information is stored in the app installation, meaning that if you uninstall it or attempt to clear the cache, that information is now irretrievable. Any outstanding valid tickets you may have had are now gone forever. I did not know this, of course, and so in an attempt to reset the app and work around the glitch I had encountered, I cleared the cache.

Shit.

What followed in the next few days were frantic calls to Arriva’s customer support in order to get a refund on the weekly ticket I had shelled out for, but which was now totally inaccessible. Thankfully, after several attempts, I did get through to someone and they refunded my ticket with no hassle; they also apologised and tried to troubleshoot what had happened. Unfortunately, it was a bit too little, too late. There is now no way I’d consider going near buying an m-ticket through Arriva again in its current state. For me to change my mind, they would have to alter the way account information is stored at the very least, so that it can be recovered if the app is has to be reinstalled or that person is changing handsets.

That’s all my major gripes with category one covered, but what of the second category?

Well, despite my misgivings over the m-ticket, they are probably going to become the way to pay in a future coming to you soon. The problem is that existing smartphone handsets aren’t quite there. Battery life is still a major issue. They crash sometimes, because of how sophisticated the OSs are now. They are at risk to spyware and trojans, which will be on the lookout for the confidential data you input, and people are still way too ignorant over this. Lastly, they’re multitasking devices, but sometimes they don’t multitask so well, leading to significant UI and performance issues. Consider you’re in line with m-ticket in hand, but you’re also listening to a music, and then you receive a phone call, and now you’re right in front of the bus driver trying to figure out how to shut down all those programs and notifications in order to bring the ticket up on-screen. Nightmare.

With all that out there, I can deliver to you my final score: 2 out of 5. Conceptually, it’s a good idea, but Arriva and handset manufacturers have a ways to go before the mainstream should consider buying into mobile tickets.

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