A new transport app, developed by two South Africans based in Silicon Valley, has recently been released in the country.
Transit Wise for iOS aims to improve public transport navigation, offering step by step instructions, prices and trip duration.
The app, developed by Tyler Hoffman and Unathi Chonco of Pretoria, currently supports Gauteng only.
We conducted an email Q&A with Chonco, tackling everything from rival apps and Silicon Valley to future plans.
Hadlee Simons (HS): How did the idea for the app come about?
Unathi Chonco (UC): Coming to San Francisco opened our eyes to how easy it could be to use a public transport system. There are a multitude of different apps that integrate with the local transport here so we drew inspiration from them to develop a solution for our own city. It has always been relatively difficult to use transport around Gauteng so we fixed that.
HS: How does it stand out from Google Maps' efforts and transport apps like Gauteng on the Move, FindMyWay and others?
UC: Services have come and gone but none have made the impact we want to see. Google Maps does not currently provide the information we do and after speaking to senior developers of Google Maps here in Silicon Valley, we saw that there was an opportunity to become the source of public transport information in South Africa.
Becoming a platform between different transport agencies and the people who want to use them. We also hope to provide an experience that is more consistent and user friendly, making public transport easier to use than ever before.
HS: Are there any plans for an Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone app? The first two in particular, as they're quite popular in SA.
UC: We do have plans to start development on an Android version of our app as Android devices make up the majority of the smartphone market share. The next step in development is definitely Android and we hope to expand to as many platforms as possible.
HS: Why iOS first though?
UC: We were currently learning iOS development at Make School. And it was the most feasible project we could finish in just a few weeks because we would have technical support, as we are still young developers, advancing our skills as software engineers.
HS: How long until we can see more provinces being featured? Which provinces will be featured first?
UC: We are currently working on supporting more provinces and (regions) on the list now are Durban, Cape Town and East London.
HS: What kind of unexpected challenges did you face during development of the app?
UC: Finding extensive information from the transport agencies, detailing all their routes and timetables, proved to be difficult. This is the original problem we wanted to solve for the average smartphone user. Another problem we encountered was not being able to physically test our app in South Africa while developing in San Francisco.
HS: In what specific ways would testing in SA benefit you?
UC: During development it is always best to test in a real-life scenario to see the expected performance and (to) know that there are no bugs or issues that appear only under certain circumstances.
We found ways to simulate locations during development so we could run the app as if we were in South Africa. But when we launched we had no idea if it would be as perfect until the first South African used it.
HS: How has developing from Silicon Valley influenced you and the app?
UC: Being in Silicon Valley has placed us around the greatest tech resources to help us achieve our goals. We have been able to connect with and be mentored by CEOs and leaders of other companies in the industry. It has been a great privilege, and a positive influence in our development process.
HS: Are there any plans to monetise the app? What kind of funding is in place for the app's development
UC: We do not yet have a monetisation plan. Our main priority is to provide a useful service that people desire, and iterate the business around that. We currently haven't received funding for the app.