The best way to hail a cab with your smartphone (without calling)

Getting around town has gotten pretty high-tech when it comes to most forms of transportation, be it navigating by GPS in a car or planning your route on the fly when taking transit. Yet the simple taxi cab seems to have evaded technological advancements over the years — heck, I still have cab drivers who tell me they can't take credit cards.

But it doesn't have to be that way, fellow cab riders: while Canadian cities might be lagging behind the high-tech cab culture of places like New York City, things are slowly beginning to improve. It's not an exhaustive list of options, but if you're in one of the cities serviced by these apps, it should help make your taxi-riding experience a little bit better.

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City serviced: Toronto

Canada's first licensed app-based cab company allows users to hail, monitor, and even pay for their taxi ride from their smartphone, and they don't even have to place a phone call. Hailo launched in Toronto at the end of September and is now the second smartphone app to hit Ontario's capital in the past month.

Once the user presses the app's hail button, Hailo instantly sends a notification to the nearest cab on their system. The user is then given an estimated time of arrival, information on the driver, and the ability to track the taxi's location on the map.

According to The Canadian Press, nearly 400 drivers have already signed up for the service, and another 1,200 are in the process of joining. Emma Brooks, an early Hailo customer, is already thrilled with the app.

"When I'm taking a cab at night, it makes me feel safer to [be able to have] a female cabbie too," she told The Canadian Press.


Cities serviced: Toronto, Vancouver

Unfortunately, Hailo's launch has drawn attention to the fact that Uber has been running unlicensed in Toronto for nearly a month. And while they have built up a solid reputation in the city, as well as the 20 other cities where they operate, they're still looking for the official approval from the City of Toronto.

"We've presented our point of view to the city," said Andrew Macdonald, Uber general manager in Toronto. "And I think they want to be technology-friendly."

Nevertheless, the company provides a comparable service to that of Hailo, with fully licensed and insured drivers. And unlike Hailo, Uber also provides service to Vancouver, too. Customers who are looking for something more upscale than the traditional taxi experience may also be interested in Uber: the default vehicles in the Uber fleet are stylish black sedans or SUVs.


City serviced: Calgary

Calgary entrepreneur Jeff Doepker conceived of FastCab one night when he was unable to go pick up his wife, and didn't want her wandering around looking for a cab in the dark. FastCab lets you select from a list of available nearby cabs, track your cab's approach via GPS, then rate the cab driver through the app when you arrive at your destination. There's also an option to offer a cash incentive during high-demand periods, like after a hockey game. Currently only available for iPhone, an Android version is also in the works.

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Diamond Taxi

City serviced: Montreal

You can order a taxi on your smartphone from Montreal's largest cab company using their app on Andriod or iPhone. The app suggests a nearby pickup location, lets you select the type of vehicle and payment method, and then shows you your cab's approach in realtime. Customers can also select a later time that they'd like to be picked up. The app has recently had some improvements to help fix some of the glitches happening in iOS 6.

TAG Taxi App

Cities serviced: Montreal, Trois-Rivières

Another option for Montrealers (and recently for Trois-Rivières residents, too) is TAG (short for Taxi Assigned by Geolocation). Like the Diamond Taxi app, customers order their cabs with a few taps, selecting the vehicle type, payment method and any additional needs like over-sized luggage or pets. Unlike the Diamond Taxi app, however, TAG will connect you with whichever cab company happens to operate in the territory you're in. You can also send feedback on your cab-riding experience. TAG is available for iPhone.


City serviced: Toronto

Toronto cab seekers can contact local taxi company Beck directly for a cab with the Beck Taxi App, launched earlier this year. The app lets you select the time and location where you'd like to be picked up, and Beck will dispatch a cab driver accordingly. Many reviewers say that contacting Beck through the app actually proved much faster than calling them directly. Currently, the app is only available for iOS devices.

Right Click readers, are there any cab companies in your area that let you hail a cab with a smartphone? Please add to this list in the comments below!