Harry here. Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of changes to both the Uber and Lyft driver apps. Not everybody likes change, but in my opinion, the driver apps for both companies are getting more powerful by the day and 2016 saw a lot of new driver-friendly features being added. Today, RSG contributor W. Curtis Preston stacks up how the Uber driver app compares to the Lyft driver app.
Any driver who’s worked for both Uber and Lyft has things that they like about the driver app and things they don’t like. Today, I’m going to let you know what I think about both apps and which one you might prefer.
Why do this, you ask? Perhaps you are a driver of one platform and are considering another platform. It would be nice to know how its driver app works before driving with them. Or maybe you are someone responsible for app development at Uber or Lyft, and would like to know how to make your app better. (I can only hope.)
I have been driving for Uber and Lyft in San Diego for over six months and currently drive at least 20 to 30 hours a week. I turn on both apps and drive with whichever service pings me first, which in San Diego is usually Uber. I then go offline on the other app so that I do not get dual requests. Once I am done with a particular ride, I will go online with the other app after waiting a minute or so.
Driving for both apps at the same time increases my request volume and helps me make more money. Even if you don’t want to drive for both apps at the same time in your market, it makes sense to have a back-up app just in case. You never know when the Uber app is going to crash, or you may get locked out of your account and be unable to work until customer support unlocks your account. Let’s take a look at how the two driver apps stack up.
We’re in this to make money, and each app has some advantages in this area. The first thing to talk about is how your pay is displayed. I have never understood why the Lyft app displays total fare revenue, instead of the portion of that revenue I get to keep. Lyft shows the total before commission and before tip, so you have no idea what you got paid for a given ride:
Uber displays exactly what you got paid for your previous trip:
A good trick on Lyft though is head over to the Express Pay tab since it will show you the total for what you’re getting paid for this week.
Uber displays a running total for the day and the week (this picture is missing today’s total, but it’s normally right on top of the column for the day). This doesn’t really make it easier to make money, but it makes it easier to understand how much money you’re making. Some drivers have a daily amount they want to make, and they will stop driving once they’ve made that amount. It’s a whole lot easier to do that on Uber since they show daily and weekly breakdowns.
I’m sure someone will bring up that the Lyft app supports tips, which makes it easier to make money. That is more a function of Lyft’s philosophy and the passenger app than the driver app. But as long as we’re talking about making money, I do have to mention that.
Bonuses and Incentives
The Lyft app always has the power driver bonuses, and their app makes it easy to track how you’re doing towards each bonus. On top of the screen at all times is a display that shows three circles of how you are progressing towards each of the three goals that Lyft requires to get the bonus. By contrast, Uber is a little hit or miss with displaying the various bonuses that come and go based on your market, and there is very little information in the app on how you’re doing toward a bonus. Below you can see a clearly defined map of where the ‘Earnings Boost’ areas are and what times they’re active from. Uber has made a lot of progress in this department since last year.
Prime Time vs Surge
The Uber app is better at helping me make more money during periods of high demand. As discussed in another article, Uber’s surge pricing maps are much more user friendly. In addition, the driver app tells you specifically what surge rate an incoming passenger request is on before you accept it. That might help you make the decision to go a little farther in order to accept a more expensive trip. For example, the other night I got a 3X surge request that was outside the 10 minute limit I have on ride requests. I accepted it due to the surge rate.
I do not “chase the surge” on Uber, which to me means I will not drive several minutes to get to a surge area, since I know it will be gone before I get there. But I do absolutely use Uber’s surge maps to decide whether or not to stay in a particular area or perhaps drive a little bit towards that area.
In contrast, I find Lyft’s Prime Time pricing a complete mystery. I don’t know where I should be in order to take advantage of a Primetime situation. Even if I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of a hot pink rectangle, I have no idea if a ride request that I’m receiving is going to result in primetime pricing or not until after the ride is over.
Having said that, the Lyft app is better at helping me understand where an upcoming ride request is, allowing me to make a more informed decision on whether or not to accept it. As you can see in the attached screenshot, it shows an overview map of how to get to that destination from where you are. As you can see in the previous Uber screenshot talking about surge pricing, Uber shows only a tiny map of the actual location and its address. If you don’t know that street name, then you have no idea whether you’re driving in a direction you want to go or not. With Lyft you know right where you’re going.
Both apps now have a destination feature, but in my personal experience Uber’s destination filter works and Lyft’s doesn’t – at least where I live (20 minutes from the closest hot zone (Encinitas) and 45 minutes from the hotter zones in downtown San Diego).
Related Article: How to make $28/hour as an Uber driver in San Diego
For 3+ months I would start my shift by attempting to use Lyft’s destination feature to get from Oceanside to somewhere closer to San Diego. I would do the same when heading home at the end of the night and during those months I received one ping via that filter. One.
Now when I begin a shift I create a destination filter on Lyft and Uber and then I stay with whichever one gives me the first ride, which has so far always been Uber. This is probably a combination of the Uber market being larger and how the destination filter works, but it’s bad enough that I may stop using Lyft’s filter altogether. I’m not very patient, so I don’t always get rides all the way to the destination I specified, but I always get enough rides to at least cover my per mile cost of driving home.
One gripe I have about the Uber destination filter is that it is way too easy to accidentally exit the filter (at least on the iPhone), and that’s the end of that destination filter if you had at least one ride on that filter. It will count as 1 of the 2 you are given each 24-hour period. With Lyft I can go offline and online and my destination filter remains active. With Uber’s destination filter, you have to make bathroom stops without going offline. But it’s still better than Lyft’s filter, since it’s only given me one ride in months of use.
Special Events/In App Notifications
Another thing that Uber has been doing lately is displaying upcoming special events where there might be periods of high demand. If you want to drive people home from a concert, the Uber app displays today and tomorrow’s upcoming events directly on the main screen of the app.
The fact that Uber has separate passenger and driver apps also helps to make you more money – especially if you have taken Harry’s advanced driving class and learned about the “pocket strategy.” The pocket strategy isn’t possible with the Lyft app unless you have a second phone. This strategy directly affects how much money I make in an evening. (If you’re not familiar with the pocket strategy, take Harry’s class!)
The Lyft app has one nice feature that some drivers feel enhances their safety. Specifically, it shows them a picture of the person they are picking up. The Uber passenger app does have a picture of the passenger, but they don’t show it to the driver.
Keeping navigation simple is also a safety issue, as requiring a user to interact with their phone too much during a ride can be quite unsafe. In this area, Uber has a strong positive and negative.
First, Uber has a built-in GPS that many drivers use exclusively, instead of having to switch to a third-party navigation app. It’s a decent navigation app with turn by turn directions, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as good as Google Maps or Waze. It’s still better than Lyft’s built-in maps, though, which consists only of an overview of the route and no turn by turn directions.
A built-in GPS is quite helpful to those that are trying to keep things simple, and it is most useful during Uber pool rides. In my market, Uber actually forces you to use the internal navigation app when you are on a pool ride, as it wants to automatically redirect you if you get a second ride request. (Calling it a “request” is a bit of the misnomer, though, since Uber is now automatically accepts it for you.) When driving on a Lyft Line request, you must be careful to monitor the application for additional requests, which you must accept and then push the button to change your navigation destination. This is significantly less safe than the way Uber does it in my market.
New VOIP System
One recent change in Uber, though, is a safety issue in my opinion. The latest version of the app has switched to using random numbers for the VOIP phone number used as a gateway for text for phone communications with upcoming passenger. I learned from Harry the idea of creating contacts called “Uber passenger” and “Lyft passenger” for the VOIP numbers they use for me. I also had an “Uber passengertwo” for the number used when I’m on a pool ride and have two passengers, or when I get a “Next Ride” request while still on my current ride.
This allows me to press one button and say “Text Uber passenger. (pause) Hi, this is Curtis your Uber driver. I’m on my way with an ETA of 6:46 PM. See you soon!” (I do this after getting an ETA from Waze or Google Maps.) Now since Uber uses random numbers, I have to use the app to text them. I have to look for a moment when I don’t need to see Waze, press the Home button twice to pull up my apps, select the Uber app, press “+” followed by “Contact,” followed by “Message.” Then I have to press the mic button on my text app to start dictating. This means I will only do this at a light.
Despite what Uber support said, this adds no additional privacy to driver or passenger, or any other benefit I can think of. It only adds complexity. What it does do, however, is allow Uber to pay for far fewer VOIP lines. I’m sure that adds up to millions of dollars a month in savings, but at a major cost in functionality. It helps them but hurts us, so let’s do it!
One could argue that this is only a safety issue if you choose to text your passengers prior to arriving to the destination. This is true, but I’ve found doing this a huge benefit to my passengers. As Harry points out in his blog, your relationship with the passenger starts the moment you accept the ride request. Sending them a helpful informational text begins the relationship on a very positive note. I’ve also found that giving them a near-exact ETA (like I get from Waze) really increases the chance that they’ll be ready to go when I pull up. That, again, increases my profit since I’m not waiting a long time for my passengers.
In general I find the Uber app to be more powerful and feature-packed than the Lyft app. I think it’s easier to make money and easier to know how much money you’re making with the Uber app, with the obvious exception of the tip feature in Lyft. I also find the built-in GPS to be a safer method of navigation than switching to a third-party GPS. Having said that, I personally use Waze because I believe it makes me more efficient than the internal GPS. I’m very upset about the recent VOIP change, and I’m hoping they change that back.
I’ll finish by saying this: this was a comparison of the apps and doesn’t reflect my feelings about the companies behind the apps. I know many drivers prefer driving for Lyft simply because of the tip button and the power driver bonuses, and I would be right there with them if I thought I could get enough rides on Lyft in San Diego. I would give up all the extra functionality that the Uber app has for that one feature, but I just don’t think I would get enough rides where I live if I used only the Lyft app. Perhaps a fellow San Diego Lyft driver can tell me otherwise.
What do you think? Which app makes you more money? Did we miss an important feature that you like, or a “feature” that you hate? Let us know in the comments!
Bio: W. Curtis Preston is an IT analyst that specializes in backup and recovery technology and drives for Uber and Lyft in his spare time. You can read more of his work on his blog here.
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