In recent blog posts on Gridwise, we’ve discussed what you need to have as a rideshare driver. This list included emesis bags for passengers who’ve had too much to drink, gum and mints for those who want to freshen their breath, and an air freshener to rid you and future passengers of the last guy that was in your car (you remember, the one with poor personal hygiene). Heck, we’ve even advised you to carry toothpicks.
But what about your phone? Your cell phone connects you to the rideshare app to get orders, passengers, find directions, and keep track of your earnings.
Your phone is an essential piece of equipment. What features do you need? Which would be great to have? Which are frivolous? You need a phone that performs, but you don’t want to spend unnecessary money.
Take a few minutes as we address the following topics:
- The minimum: What do Lyft and Uber require?
- One phone or two?
- Things to consider when evaluating cell phones for rideshare driving.
- What are the favorite models?
- Accessories to consider.
- Extra tips about cell phones and rideshare.
- Tracking shifts on iPhone or Android
The minimum: What do Lyft and Uber require?
First, you need a smartphone. This should not be a big shock. According to Statistica, 85% of cell phones in the US are smartphones.
Lyft phone requirements call for devices running at least iOS 13 on your iPhone or 7.0 Nougat on your Android. The best phone for the Uber app runs iOS 14.8 or later for your iPhone. For Android, you need 5.0 or later. If you run older versions of these systems, you can expect the phone to run slowly, freeze, or crash.
The good news is that most cell phones released within the last five years run these systems. The bad news is that rideshare companies are constantly updating their platforms with new features and capabilities. If your cell phone is on the low end of these requirements, it might be time to upgrade. If you are someone who upgrades your cell phone every two years, whether you need to or not, then you are safe.
This may come as a shock, but there are cell phones that do not run on iOS or an Android operating system. Yeah, how did the cell phone companies let them sneak in? We talked about it in The Best Phones for Rideshare (Uber and Lyft) Drivers, an early 2021 Gridwise blog post. Here is a partial list of phones that don’t operate on iOS or Android:
- Motorola Moto E (Dual SIM – XT1022)
- Motorola Moto G
- Samsung Core 2 Duos (SM-G355H)
- Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
- Samsung Galaxy E5
- Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime
- Samsung entire J series
- Samsung Galaxy S Duos 3 VE
- Samsung Galaxy Star 2 Plus (SM-G350E)
- Sony devices
- Xiaomi devices
If you are evaluating a phone and have any questions about it, check the specifications in the sales literature (it should be readily available), or look it up online in the case of a private-party purchase.
One phone or two?
There are discussions out there, both online and in the coffee shops where rideshare drivers congregate, about the benefits of one phone vs. two. Some drivers like to use a dedicated phone for their rideshare activities and keep a separate phone for private use. If you have a plan that offers you an extra line and a deal on the plan, that might work, but it’s not necessary.
Another instance in which you might want to consider two phones is if you are multi-apping, running both Uber and Lyft apps at the same time. Many drivers do this. It is possible to run both apps on the same phone, but if you accept a ride on one app, then you need to turn off the other app. Handling these tasks on the same phone can be cumbersome. If you fumble too much, you might get a ride you didn’t want and have to cancel, causing your acceptance rate to suffer. A two-phone solution works nicely, allowing you to accept the ride on one app and turn off the app on the other.
If you are interested in multi-apping, you can also refer to a recent Gridwise blog post The Art of Multi-apping: How-Tos and Strategies for Gig Drivers.
Whatever your reason for maintaining a second phone, many carriers like Visible offer a buy-one-get-one special (also known as a BOGO) from time to time. Be on the lookout for these when it comes time to upgrade.
Things to consider when evaluating cell phones for rideshare
Beyond operating systems, there are some other considerations when it comes to cell phones. Below are the ones most often discussed.
Size matters, to a point. Cell phone screen sizes are measured diagonally. A screen measuring 4.5 inches is about the minimum anyone would want to use for ridesharing. On the bigger end, there comes a point where larger screens offer diminishing returns, considering the extra price. A screen of 6.5 inches is about the maximum you need. Some people use iPads for their rideshare activities, preferring a larger screen. It’s your personal preference. What can you tolerate when allocating the real estate on your dashboard?
Rideshare apps can be a power suck, especially when you add a music app and a few other apps you need to get through the day. The last thing you want is to see a low battery. Many drivers have their phones plugged in so that they charge whenever they are driving. There is also a school of thought that overcharging is bad for the battery. All things being equal, look for a phone with superior battery life. You don’t want to be stuck with a weak battery when your power cord stops working.
Yogi Berra once said that the future ain’t what it used to be. But the future will surely include 5G, so including that feature on your phone is probably worth the extra expense. According to the IOT Solutions World Congress, the main advantages of 5G are a greater speed in transmissions and a lower latency (latency being the time it takes the phone to execute a command). A phone with 5G will come in handy when you get tied into the Internet of Things (IOT). By the way, if you have Alexa running your home, then you are using a version of IOT.
What are the favorite models?
There are a number of cell phone manufacturers, with nearly countless models. Everybody has personal preferences, too. The iPhone comes up number one in just about any evaluation, but some people don’t like them. They prefer the Samsung Galaxy or another manufacturer. Besides, iPhones are expensive. Nevertheless, we’ll start with the iPhone.
The latest iteration of the iPhone is the iPhone 14 and the iPhone 14 PRO, priced at $800 and $1,000, respectively. These are guaranteed to have all the bells and whistles you need for your rideshare business. But truthfully, either one is overkill if you want to save money. You can get an iPhone SE starting at $429. It runs on iOS 15.3. The screen, at 4.7 inches, is a little on the small side, but it will suffice.
Samsung is the favorite among those who would eschew the iPhone. The top-of-the-line Galaxy is the Galaxy S22 Ultra, with an almost 7-inch screen, 5G, wireless charging, and power sharing. Using this phone, you can charge your earbuds while catching an afternoon nap in preparation for rush hour. Price tag is a cool $1,200.
But if your thrifty side prevails, you can look at something like the Samsung Galaxy A51, which comes with 5G and the Android 10 operating system. It does everything you need as a gig driver, and the price tag is closer to $400.
Google developed the Android operating system, so it is unlikely they will come out with a phone that is anything less than stellar. The Google Pixel 6A is a great phone, especially for the money. It starts at $449. It has everything you’ll ever need for rideshare, features the Android 12 operating system, and is available in 5G. With various options, prices run up to $600.
The LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen might be the ultimate phone for a multi-apper interested in a single device. This little puppy, running on the Android 10 platform, has two screens. You can run both Uber and Lyft at the same time. You can check out a string on Reddit, If You Multi-app, You Need One of These, from drivers who have tried this phone. The price is a bit higher, in the $900 range, but hey, two screens!
Nokia is the place to go if you are looking for the features you need in a cell phone but don’t want to pay a lot of money. The Nokia G50 is a 5G phone with an Android 11 operating system and is priced at $239. Reviews of Nokia phones cite it as a bargain, but they come with an undertone of “you get what you pay for.”
Accessories to consider
Besides your car, your phone is the largest investment you make when it comes to equipment for a rideshare driver. The best thing you can do for your phone is to take care of it.
A good case is cheap insurance against damage when you drop your phone, and you will drop it. Look through the various Amazon offerings. There is a case style out there that you will find attractive and functional.
A good screen protector is another essential phone accessory. No one wants a scratched or cracked screen. Depending on the severity of the damage, your cell phone may still work, but it makes seeing the screen difficult. Besides, after you and your car, your phone is the most visible part of what you present to passengers. A scratched or cracked screen is a poor reflection on you (okay, that was a little bit of a joke) and could affect your ratings. The combination of a case and a screen protector prevent damage to the screen.
You want a solid, reliable phone mount for your rideshare work. A favorite of many drivers are the magnetic mounts that attach to a thin metal plate mounted with adhesive to the back of your phone case. These mounts allow you to pull the phone off easily when needed and quickly replace it with minimum hassle.
Extra power cords
Power cords wear out quickly, especially if you handle the phone a great deal when it’s plugged in. A common problem spot is where the plug attaches to the cord, so pay a couple of extra bucks for a molded plug. Check out 4 Durable Phone Charging Cables That Actually Last, on Wellrigged.com.
Multi-port USB car charger
When you drive rideshare, your car is wired. You power a cell phone, an amp (the Lyft light) or the beacon (which is what Uber calls their light), probably a dashcam, and possibly something else. A multiport charger like the Bestek is a handy item to have. It gives you plenty of USB outlets, so everything can run simultaneously. Note that there is even a USB-C outlet, which will be more important in the next few years as that becomes the standard.
Extra tips about cell phones and rideshare
Become a regular face at the local store of your phone carrier
Check out the new phones, but more importantly, get to know a few of the salespeople on a first-name basis and visit them regularly. Occasionally, carriers will have a glut of a certain model, and the salespeople are empowered to give them away at bargain rates. They also might have a new model, and the salespeople have two or three that they can sell at a deep discount just to get them out in public. You might get one of these bargains if you are in the right place at the right time.
Look for BOGO deals
Closely related to the darn-near-free cell phone, there is also the BOGO, or buy-one-get-one deal. You see these a lot when Apple or Samsung releases a new phone. They want to get rid of their stock of the last model.
Take advantage of easy financing
A nice feature about mobile carriers is that they are more than happy to finance your phone purchase. It is easy to pay the extra tariff when it is spread over 24 months.
Question the features
If you find yourself looking at two different cell phones that are comparable in function but different in price, look at the camera. Some cell phone cameras have ridiculous capabilities, including a telephoto lens, slo-mo video features, and other things you will likely never use. When was the last time you laid down prone in the grass and took a photo of a dandelion while someone blew away those white seed heads? Probably never. Think twice before choosing that camera.
When you run into another driver at the coffee shop or while waiting for a ride at the airport or a special event, ask them about the phone they use. You can get some good information. Also, check out Reddit and Quora for driver comments on phones, as well as Facebook and other social media sites where rideshare drivers exchange info.
When you get a new phone and use it for gig driving, you can track your miles for free – no odometer or pen/pencil required!
Gig drivers are using Gridwise’s free mileage tracker on Android and iPhone to keep on top of their miles and save extra at tax time. How? Gridwise tracks miles that gig apps don’t, which means you get a bigger mileage deduction using the Gridwise mileage tracker, and all you have to do is toggle a button. Easy, right?
You’ll also save on gas costs through the Gridwise Gas Program, a Gridwise benefit that saves you as much as $50/month. Learn more about how to save on gas as a gig driver in this blog post.