RideCharge: Tip a cabbie from your phone

A cab-calling app for BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile lets you order and pay for cabs without placing a call.

RideCharge on BlackBerry
RideCharge on BlackBerry summons a cab and lets you pay by credit--for a fee.

Not everyone is as lucky as we are to work adjacent to a hotel with a fresh supply of taxicabs pulling up to its curb. When you're stuck without a ride, cab-calling applications can make ordering a taxi through local companies a surer, safer thing than throwing yourself in the middle of a darkened street and flailing your arms wildly.

A recent application we've looked at, RideCharge for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile (www.ridecharge.com from the mobile browser), not only lets you order a cab from your phone without placing a call, but it also has you enter a credit card payment when the ride is complete--tip, too. To round out the service, RideCharge e-mails a a receipt to print for your records, or for an expense report.

Taxi Magic (RideCharge) on iPhone
iPhone's RideCharge application, Taxi Magic, doesn't have cashless payment yet. (Credit: CNET)

Adding mobile payment to the cab-calling concept gives RideCharge additional layers of service and convenience. On a GPS-enabled phone, you'll receive notifications when your cab is dispatched and can track its progress to your destination. You just have to be comfortable paying with your phone, and paying RideCharge a convenience surcharge per ride--$1.50 for a taxi or shuttle and $3 for a limo or sedan, like the kind business travelers might take to the airport.

Yet quite a few scenarios for these business travelers, and regular Janes and Joes, would obviate the need to ever use RideCharge. Most hotels, for instance, have taxi ranks or concierge services that will flag you a ride. If you're somewhere stationary, you could easily spare the extra minute to call a dispatcher from a free listings application or Web site. However, RideCharge will have its uses for pedestrians struggling to find a cab, and for those who would rather use a sure thing than search, or who would rather type than talk.

For Apple fans, RideCharge also offers a far sexier version for iPhone and iPod Touch. Called Taxi Magic, the free application also lets you ping a cab company for a pick-up in about 30 U.S. cities and track the cab's progress, but doesn't yet have an integrated mobile payment function--which means no surcharge for now. If there's no partnered taxi company to take your order, the application lists phone numbers you can call from the iPhone.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.