App Review: iBusVan for iPhone
Commuters in Vancouver know all to well the shortcomings of the transit system. While transit times can never be perfectly accurate, we iPhone owners can use applications to plan our transit trips with relatively perfect accuracy. The app iBusVan aims to do that for you!
iBusVan is a Vancouver-based transit app that reflects Translink system schedules. In other words, the app provides up to date bus information. If you are not in Vancouver, you can check out UniBus, another app by the developer that supports many other cities across North America.
iBusVan provides times for upcoming transit vehicle arrivals, so you know exactly when and where your bus will be arriving. This of course assumes optimal operating conditions for Translink.
The app can locate stops and routes in two ways: Using the iPhone GPS or iPod Touch WiFi to find nearby stops or the user can manually input keyword/stop/route numbers (if known). If only a specific stop is searched, the app will present arrival times for the stop and the intersection that the stop is located on. You can also bookmark the stop as a favorite. You can search by route and view whole-day schedules for any day of the chosen route. I thought this was pretty neat since the existing official Translink app does not provide this.
The irk with iBusVan is that a lot of the functionality provided is available for free from the Translink app. Viewing times, routes, and bus numbers are all included in the Translink app. Moreover, the Translink app provides Skytrain and SeaBus information, something I could not find with iBusVan. Some of this functionality is also available from Google Maps on the iPhone but it is much cleaner on the Translink app.
However the one thing that iBusVan does have that Google/Translink do not have is offline browsing. Offline browsing is when no Internet connection is available and the app still has access to the transit routes and schedules. Offline browsing works by downloading the offline schedule available within the app. The device will need to be connected to the Internet initially, but not afterward when the schedule is downloaded.
Controls & Navigation 1/2
iBusVan features buttons along the bottom of app which serve as the primary navigation tools. When viewing individual stops or routes, the information is clearly displayed and general navigation of the app was quick but not always easy.
When compared to the Translink app, I found that the navigation and organization of stops and routes with iBusVan can become complex. This only happens when viewing selected stop information and times, as I found both the Translink and iPhone-integrated Google transit maps to be much more clean and easier to use.
The primary feature that stands out for iBusVan, from the rest of the transit related apps, is the offline browsing, but I cannot see that being worth paying for a transit app with the abundance of free (and good) alternatives. The app displays the same information as other transit applications but I found that information to be easier to use and navigate around in with those other transit apps.
With the Translink web app and stand alone application being free, as well as the integrated iPhone Google Maps including transit information, I cannot see the value in putting money down to buy a transit app.
iBusVan is scored a 2.5 out of 5.
iBusVan is available on the iTunes App Store for $0.99.