PickMe.

PickMe is an app that lets you summon a cab (mostly trishaws) from your iPhone or Android device. We tried it and it works. Mostly.

Basically, we’ve tried it from our office and it worked well (trishaw arrived in a few minutes). Really nice experience actually. However, we tried it again from Wellawatte and it didn’t really work at all.

Overall, however, we recommend trying them out because a human called us after we had problems in Wellawatte. This is an early review and we feel confident that they’ll improve.

The Experience

First Impressions

This is a good app. It’s well designed, non-buggy. We build our own apps and we know how hard it is, so props to the PickMe team. You need to register first, which takes a bit of time, but then you never have to enter that info again. 

Then once you use the app you see a map with your location and available cabs. The cabs don’t look like they’re moving, but they actually are, in jumps. You can move your location around (if you want a cab sent somewhere else) and it’s all pretty intuitive.

The other thing to watch out for is the ‘8 Vehicles Available’ or whatever it says. If it says one or two we wouldn’t be too hopeful. When we saw one cab available for Wellawatte that driver ended up being in Polhengoda (like 20 min away at school time).

Availability

In terms of availability, they seem to have plenty of cabs around our office in Colombo 4, but then less as you get past Dehiwala, Mount Lavinia, etc. That said, this is really good availability for a first generation product.

Pricing

In terms of pricing, it varies depending on which cab actually picks up. They have partnerships with multiple cab companies and each have their own rates.

We don’t know what commission PickMe charges, but we may have a guess. We canceled one ride but the guy showed up anyways. So we took a ride with him, off the system. At the end the meter showed Rs. 178, but the guy insisted on charging us only Rs. 143. A difference of Rs. 35, which he said went to the service. We went back and calculated our other routes and they all seemed to be about Rs. 35 more than expected, which we would assume is PickMe’s cut. That side of the pricing is a bit hidden though, it just somehow shows up on the meter. Honestly, we think that it’s worth it for the service you get.

PickMe replied to the pricing query on their Facebook page. The whole response is pretty detailed, and you should check it out, but we’ve quoted the gist of it below:

The passenger isn’t charged additionally for using PickMe services.

We provide our technology to drivers via the companies to which they work for. So they
will be paying a commission / rent to their companies as they have always done. I suppose
that is what the driver you hired was talking about…

However, there may be errors in the app’s meter reading sometimes, therefore we
would recommend you insisting that the driver switch on his old meter as well
(for now). We have advised the same to our drivers.

Most drivers may run the old meter at 40-45pkm, but the PickMe rates for tuk-tuks
are always Rs.35pkm or below. So even if they use the old meter they will reduce
the price accordingly when charging the PickMe passenger. [Note: this is only needed
if the PickMe meter seems to be giving a wrong reading.]

Using The App

I was walking back to office from lunch and had to go to the bank. I pulled out the app and ordered a cab to the corner of Vajira and Duplication Road. The “”Request A Cab”” screen hangs for a few seconds, but then it shows you the name, and license number of your driver. On Android I noticed that it shows a photo, but when I ordered I never saw that.

Within a few seconds the driver called and asked where (a unnecessary step, but I guess it’ll be like this till they start trusting the map). I got there, hung out in the shade for like two minutes, and then he called me from the corner. I waved to him and got in. They also send you an SMS saying that your cab has arrived, but in my experience the driver calls.

It’s not like Uber where your car is ‘just there’, but Sri Lankan addresses are also insane and unreliable. This works pretty well, even though at least two phone calls are involved.

The driver himself was very nice and had a nice Android phone that he knew how to use. It was encased in a box that he said got power from the trishaw battery. Pretty cool. I got there on time and paid Rs. 154 from Bambalapitiya to the end of Wellawatte. I know because there’s a record of each trip stored on the app. Seemed like the normal meter price.

Note that the prices are set by the cab companies, not PickMe. You can see the prices when a driver is selected.

Trying The App Again

I let the driver go cause I wanted to try the app again to get to office. This didn’t work at all. The first cab I called just never showed up. I called him like 15 minutes later and he said I had cancelled the order (which I hadn’t). That was a bummer, but what happened afterwards gives me great hope for the company. Someone from PickMe called me and asked if I’d had a problem. So I told them my problem, and I think they’ll actually fix it. So cool.

Then I ordered a cab again and this took 20 minutes because the guy came from Polhengoda. It was school time when cabs are scarce, but I still would have been better off just catching a trishaw off the street.

And Again

Finally, Bhagya called another trishaw to office. This one got here fine, and it was actually using the smartphone as a meter (not the mechanical box). This was cool, but that feature stopped working half way through and Bhagya had to calculate the distance manually and basically negotiate a fare.

Do note that this is a super early review, like within one week of it being out, so you can assume that these issues will be fixed. Besides that the service basically worked.

Conclusion

PickMe has done really, really well to launch a product that mostly works. The product is really mature – great interface, Sinhala menus for drivers, SMS and phone support, stickers – the works. YAMU definitely recommends checking out PickMe (on Google Play or iTunes), it’s a novel way for getting around the city. Yes you may have a few bugs at the beginning, but if we give them feedback Colombo will have a really great service soon.

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