In Part 1 of this post I talked about the reasons we have not released a TfL app alongside our new website, and how our ‘open data’ policy powers around 200 apps currently in use. Part 2 looks more closely at apps, including issues around apps for our transactional services such as Oyster.
Can you recommend a good app?
We don’t recommend specific apps as that wouldn’t be fair, but there are lots of good public transport apps available and you can view recommendations in the app stores and make up your own mind. They are generally low cost, so if you don’t get on with one of them you can easily move on to another.
Sometimes when we feel that the app development community has left a gap, we try to encourage activity. For example, we recently ran a competition to encourage more apps with accessibility features in them, and we gave some publicity and a modest prize to the winners.
We’re looking at providing an ‘app garden’ which would show the available apps, with their reviews from the various app stores – however this depends on the availability of feeds from those app stores, which are not universally available.
What about Oyster apps?
Some developers have produced apps for Oyster but these are unauthorised. We don’t provide app developers with access to Oyster accounts and we’re very obsessive about the protection of your data. These apps use a technique called ‘screen scraping’ to take your details and use them to log into our website, retrieving information off the screen and presenting it back to you in the app.
The problem is that you can’t be sure how securely the app developer will deal with your personal information and access details.
You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your Oyster username and password so you need to keep this information secret and not share it with anyone else.
To make it easier to use Oyster on your smartphone we will be launching a mobile-friendly version later this year.
Apps vs web confusion
For some the terms ‘app’ and ‘mobile web’ mean the same thing. I’ve seen people refer to our new website as an app. Often people use the term as a shorthand for something which is easy to access and works well on a smartphone.
Others are more aware of the differences between a native app and a browser-based service.
The approach of responsive web, coupled with open data, is what we believe will meet customer needs best at the moment. We’re always watching what’s happening though and will be quick to react if things change, so we can make sure you get the best range of services to make your travel choices.