The Uber app is getting an extreme makeover.
For the first time, the hallmark Uber ride-hailing map with cars crawling around the screen will no longer be in the spotlight. Instead, the app will soon open to a landing page with choices for your preferred Uber features. Starting in October, you can choose between catching a ride or ordering food through the Uber Eats delivery service.
At an all-out Uber event in the style of an Apple iPhone announcement in San Francisco on Thursday, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he sees Uber as “the operating system for your everyday life.” That means the Uber app is open not just when you need a ride, but when you need to plan dinner, bike to a meeting, or even take the bus somewhere.
He called the mapless homepage “our vision for the next generation of the Uber app,” and acknowledged it’s “a big change,” but worth it for the “one-click gateway to everything Uber can offer for you.”
This week, some users will start to see a modified home screen that still includes a map, but now includes a bottom tab to toggle between “Rides” and “Eats.”
So instead of immediately jumping into riding options like UberX, Uber Pool, or renting Jump e-bikes or Lime e-scooters, the focus has shifted to food orders. The app change seems like preparation for more expensive and less frequently hailed rides amid complicated driver pay issues, like those stemming from California’s AB 5 law about independent contractors and sinking stock prices.
Nundu Janakiram, director of rider product, said in a phone call ahead of the event that Uber is more than a transportation app at this point. With Uber Eats nipping at the ride-sharing side of the app, the ride-hail company is simplifying the app “to reduce the friction and make it easier to access the platform.” This is catering to users who get in an Uber and order a meal to be delivered at their destination. Or just use Uber Eats and skip the “Uber” part.
At the event Thursday, Uber announced 1 billion Uber Eats deliveries worldwide. To keep the orders coming, a new Uber Pass subscription will offer savings for all of Uber’s products including free delivery on Uber Eats. Or a new Eats Pass is just solely focused on food delivery discounts for frequent users. Uber still has a Ride Pass for a ride-only monthly subscription.
Other updates outside of Uber’s main ride-sharing focus were announced, like new safety features, especially timely with a recent Washington Post report about mishandled safety procedures. Soon riders can text 911 through the app instead of calling via the 911 button. For verified ride pick-ups eventually all riders will receive a PIN to match with the driver and if you opt in you can automatically verify the PIN through ultrasound waves between the driver and passenger phone once you’re within close range.
For Uber-owned Jump pedal-assist bicycles, a new design for 2020 includes swappable batteries that riders can take out and trade for a fully charged battery at charging kiosks. The current Jump e-bikes have swappable batteries, but only for Jump employees to access.
More transit options for public transportation systems are listed in the app now, with San Francisco, Mexico City, and Paris live as of Thursday. So instead of hailing an Uber car, you can look up in the app how to catch a bus to your destination. It helps that if the next bus is 40 minutes away you’re already in the Uber app.
All this comes the same week as the Lyft app added tabs for different transit options on its home screen. But instead of moving away from the iconic map, Lyft added all its transit options onto the screen to show buses, scooters, bikes, and regular Lyft cars available nearby.
Everyone is moving away from ride-hailing.