Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.

For more than six years, Uber has been known as a mobile app that let you request a ride, and that was a simple enough concept. But the company has never considered itself to be a transportation service similar to taxis — instead, it calls itself a logistics and technology provider. And starting today, Uber will begin rolling out a redesign of its rider app that puts forward its mission to be all about the first and last mile, while also simplifying and predicting your needs.

When some companies reveal they’ve redesigned their product, you might expect it to be just a reskin with a couple of bells and whistles. In Uber’s case, it’s a bit more than that; the entire experience gets an upgrade that not only makes it cleaner and simpler to use, but also adds integrations with the likes of Snapchat, Uber Eats, Pandora, and likely many more.

Your Uber knows where you want to go

Uber's redesigned app

The new Uber app features an interface its 40 million monthly riders worldwide will recognize, at least for the most part. You can request a ride just like always, but the app uses machine learning to better understand your routines. It now features “shortcuts” that will vary based on recognized travel patterns and where you are. So if you happen to be at your work office at 5 p.m., a shortcut that might appear is one for your home, a significant other’s place, a bar, or a school to pick up your kids.

Uber now supports calendar integration, meaning you can sync the native calendar app from your mobile device so shortcuts will be based on upcoming appointments, such as to your dentist office or your next meeting. The goal is to eliminate seconds wasted jumping between apps just to find the address of your destination — Uber wants to give you your time back, according to company design director Didier Hilhorst.

Uber redesigned apps -- shortcutsHe outlined four “pillars” that Uber made the foundation of this redesign, with the first being: Time is a luxury for riders. “If you think of a lot of apps, they want your time. Think of Facebook, Twitter, or Netflix; they take the time and sell the time. Uber is in a different business — we want to give time back. We want to be respectful of your time and get you on your way as fast as possible,” he remarked.

The second pillar is being more predictive, which is where machine learning and data have been used to restructure the app to anticipate what you as a rider want. The last two pillars are reimagine the experience where it’s not about getting you from point A to B, but instead connecting you with someone else, adding the human spirit into the equation. It’s here where Uber wants riders to feel this change in attitude and have a more “fluid” perspective.

Uber’s overall experience changed because the company felt it was just getting too cluttered. Depending on where you are, there were a myriad of choices you had to make, such as whether you wanted an Uber Pool, UberX, Uber Black, Uber SUV, Uber Assist, and more. Now the app lets you pick between new, functionally based categories — economy, premium, extra seats, and more. From there you’ll filter down into the appropriate vehicle offering and be displayed the fares up front, pickup time, and estimated travel time to your destination.

With perhaps millions of rides completed over the past six years, there’s quite a bit of information Uber has on you, and its algorithm is leveraging that data to reduce the amount of stress riders have when requesting a car. In fact, the new app includes a feature to suggest optimal pickup points, so if a road is blocked off for some reason or if the area is too complicated to navigate around, Uber will inform you where to go. A variety of factors come into play here, including the direction of your destination. However, it’s unclear whether this algorithm will solve the age-old issue about having an Uber pick you up from the wrong side of the street.

If you frequent public transit such as a commuter train, Uber will also help you time it so you don’t experience too much of a layover between when you arrive at the station and when you board the train.

Although getting from point A to B is a logical use case for Uber, sometimes it’s not a physical location, but you’re trying to meet up with friends, a business contact, family, or another person. And what happens if they’re mobile? After all, we’ve been in situations where we’ll tell someone that we’ll meet them later and then have to go through an ordeal trying to find them. In one of the more interesting new features, Uber will connect with your mobile device’s address book and, when you’re ready to meet up, will send a push notification asking your friend to allow their location to be shared for up to 30 minutes. When authorized, the Uber will head to them. The people you’re meeting don’t need to use Uber in order for this to work.

The people finder feature won’t be available right away, but should be launching in the next few weeks.

New integrations

Beyond having an intelligent app, Uber includes native integrations from some of the most popular apps, including Snapchat, Pandora, Foursquare, Yelp, and even its own Uber Eats. Not all of these features will be available immediately, and they’re likely to be enabled based on specific markets. However, there are plans to expand to other third-party services in the future.

The basis of these integrations is to help riders get more done and have a better experience in the vehicle. Oftentimes, we’re in an Uber and look at our phones to keep busy, but the app just shows us a map of where we are and how long until we approach our destination. The redesigned app reimagines this scenario to create something similar to United’s mobile app, where there’s other content and activities to do.

If you happen to be running late for a meeting with a friend or a close associate, Uber now has dedicated Snapchat filters in its app that you can send to them to prove you’re on your way. And if you’re heading to a restaurant for a meal with friends or going out on the town to a particular neighborhood, you can take advantage of Yelp and Foursquare to help you get informed about what’s good by the time you step out of the car.

Some integrations have already existed, such as Uber’s Pandora deal. The company had provided Pandora radio to drivers through their dedicated app, but has now incorporated it into the rider side, along with Spotify. When asked about why Spotify wasn’t mentioned, senior product manager Yuhki Yamashita informed us that it would still be included, but that availability was “based on location,” without providing any more specifics.

Additional integrations will be released over the next few weeks, so it’s quite possible that other services could be included. Yamashita declined to state what other third-party services are forthcoming, but one could imagine maybe YouTube, TripAdvisor, or even Airbnb’s Neighborhood feature could be useful for tourists using Uber to explore new areas.

Uber redesigned app on trip

As for Uber Eats, this is the first time that the service has become mixed in with the core service app. But it serves a useful purpose since, again, we’ve all have situations where we’re on our way home after a long day and don’t know what we want to eat. Rather than getting home and waiting an hour for delivery, why not place the order right from the car? Now instead of jumping from one app to another, you can make it happen within a single app.

“We designed the new Uber app around you — and our core beliefs that time is a luxury and that the information you need should always be at your fingertips. Gone are the days when everyone’s app looks the same,” Yamashita wrote in a blog post. “The new Uber experience is reimagined around a simple question — ‘Where to?’. After all, you use Uber to get somewhere — or to someone. And by starting with your destination, we can tailor the journey to you.”

The redesigned Uber app will be available for iOS and Android, and will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.