Comparing three Android transit tracker apps

[flickr]photo:6261938744[/flickr]

Transit Tracks makes it very easy to find stops near you, and doesn’t place restrictions on how many appear in the map. 

I reviewed only the free versions. Updated October 19, 2011, to add a third transit tracker app.

Chicago Transit Tracker Lite Transit Tracks TreKing 4 Free
Pros
  • Locates nearest bus stop
  • Shows system alerts from CTA
  • Shows current temperature
  • Shows time of last update
  • Locates ALL nearby bus stops using your GPS
  • Has a more logical method to manually select bus stops and train stations
  • Allows you to group favorite stops/stations
  • Has better aesthetics – easier to read favorites listing
  • User swipes the screen to show the opposite direction bus or train
  • System map shows the familiar Google Maps and allows user to select nearby bus stops and train stations
  • When no more service, reports “No running buses”
  • Pro version offers Metra schedules and Pace bus predictions (I didn’t test this)
  • Very logical method to select your bus stop or train station (this is called a “trek”)
  • Lets you save a custom name for a specific stop or station (but gives predefined name)
  • Allows you to group saved stops/stations
  • Quick Treks feature locates nearby stops and stations
  • Pro version has a trip planner (“Trek Planner”)
  • Move, rename, or delete groups by holding your finger on the group (very easy)
  • It appears you can set alerts in the pay version that tell you when to get off the bus/train, or when the bus/train is about to arrive
  • In the pay version you can add time to the prediction so you’re less likely to miss a bus/train if it’s early
Cons
  • Only displays a single nearby bus stop in free version using your GPS
  • Shows ads in free version
  • Favorites listing appears in a confusing way
  • Shows ALL system alerts, and not ones relevant to my favorite routes
  • System map loads a CTA website
  • When no more service, reports “No arrival times”
  • To add a favorite stop manually, text search function works in unexpected way
  • To add a favorite stop manually, the choices are confusing. There are 4 choices for Addison-Blue, one for each possible terminus (Forest Park, Jefferson Park, O’Hare, UIC)
  • Does not retrieve system alerts from CTA
  • Does not show temperature
  • Does not show time of last update
  • Shows ads
  • When you first select CTA Trains as the system you want to track, a huge list of confusing caveats shows up. I don’t think they’re all true.
  • Method to select your trip route takes a lot of time
  • Selecting a “To Stop”, which is optional, doesn’t change anything
  • Shows ads
  • Quick Trek feature in free version limited to 1/8th mile (one block)
  • There isn’t a function you do without the app showing a popup to tell you about the pay version
  • Map nearly useless in free version: it will only show bus stop with ID 1
  • Map nearly useless in free version: it will only show bus route with route 1, Indiana/Hyde Park
  • Map in free version doesn’t show bus location in real-time
  • “Trek Planner” in free version only shows trip from your location to Sears Tower or Navy Pier – your choice!

On grouping: One group could be for the stops/stations you use to get to work and the other group could be for the return trip.

My recommendation: Transit Tracks. It’s very hard to review TreKing 4 Free because it seems most features are only available in the pay version.

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