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Zipcar App Finally Hits the iPhone

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zipcar_iconIt was one of the apps shown off at Apple’s (s aapl) WWDC Keynote speech talking about iPhone OS 3.0 back in June of this year, but Zipcar has taken its sweet time making an official appearance in the App Store. The application is finally here (iTunes link), so urbanites who’ve been waiting to make a trip to Costco to load up for the winter, you’re in luck.

For those who aren’t familiar with Zipcar, it’s a car-sharing service that allows members to rent a car during the day for running errands, etc. Cars can be picked up from convenient parking lots located throughout the urban areas served by Zipcar and dropped off again in another designated area. Zipcar members pay a monthly subscription fee and hourly and daily rates for use of the car.

The Zipcar app was one of those touted as taking advantage of new iPhone OS 3.0 features to deliver innovative functionality for users of Apple’s wonder device. And it seems to work just as advertised. The app uses your location as a starting point to find nearby cars available for booking. You can filter your results by time, type and model, which will highlight pins on the map in green that fit your criteria.

zipcar_carsAll of Zipcar’s automobiles are named, and once you find one that fits your needs and schedule, you can book it directly from the app, so long as you are a Zipcar subscriber. If you’re not, you can still try out the free app, you just won’t be able to book any cars. Clicking on a car at any location provides you with further information, including the hourly and daily rate for the vehicle in question, and supplementary information, including things like cargo capacity and any special features.

zipcar_detailsThe iPhone app also includes a virtual wireless entry key fob that connects with a car once you’ve booked it. If you’re not a member and you’re just playing around with the app like I was, you also won’t be able to use the remote car unlocker/horn honker, although you can use it to make noise on your device itself. If you are a member, the inclusion of this feature means you won’t need anything besides your iPhone to get on the road.

zipcar_remoteEven though I don’t have a membership myself, I can tell this app is an impressive example of using the iPhone to help make people’s lives easier. It further simplifies a process which is meant to be simple to begin with, and I only hope other companies are watching and follow suit.

6 Responses to “Zipcar App Finally Hits the iPhone”

  1. @Jack: I was also disappointed initially, but I’ve since thought it through a bit…

    Zipcar has become mainstream enough for most people to know at least the basics of how the system works. The vehicles are proudly marked with the Zipcar livery, the keys are locked inside the cars, and all it takes is the tap of a plastic card to lock and unlock the doors during a reservation.

    Zipcar places a lot of faith in its members, and so far it has worked out for them. This doesn’t change the fact that every time I’m dropping off groceries at home, it’s easy to think, “Ugh, the stupid card is in my pocket and I already have like fourteen bags in hand and it’s only going to take me a few minutes anyway so I don’t really need to lock the car.” And if I’ve thought about this, you can bet that some criminally-minded folks out there have thought about it, too. Having the car stolen and losing my Zipcar membership is enough motivation for me to overcome this temptation to be lazy and dumb, but I’m sure we’ve all slipped once or twice.

    So let’s agree for a moment that Zipcars are inherently insecure because people are inherently flawed (again ignoring the fact that Zipcar has thought about this and has all kinds of tracking and insurance and such). Add on top of this insecurity this new remote unlocking functionality. I could be in line at the grocery store and think, “Ugh, it’s going to be a pain to carry these fourteen bags out to the car and the stupid card will be in my pocket and it’ll only be a few minutes anyway so why don’t I just unlock the car from here.”

    Now add on top of that the proposed ability to unlock the vehicle before you’ve ever even approached it during a given reservation. Doesn’t seem like a great idea anymore. My hypothetical situation is silly and exaggerated, but it illustrates my point. Having to tap my card once before being able to use the remote unlocking is just Zipcar looking out for its own interest while also providing some impressive functionality. And that’s just fine by me.

  2. You will still need your Zipcard to get on the road… you have to unlock the car using the card once for each reservation before you can use the unlock via phone feature. This is a disappointment.