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HolidayBuyer's Guide

London car-sharing club Streetcar has released a new version of its iPhone app that turns your phone into a magic car-opening wand.

The car club, which has over a thousand VW Golfs, Polos and vans scattered over London like petrol-puffing pixie dust, hopes to make its hourly car-hire scheme easier to use by letting members book cars and even unlock them from within the app.

We were impressed with the Streetcar app's comprehensiveness -- every detail of each of their cars is included, for example. They say that a booking takes around 60 seconds from the time you make it to the time you can unlock the car. So with the app in hand, you could easily spot a Streetcar vehicle, make a booking and hop in within a couple of minutes -- even if you don't have your membership card with you.

The best part is you never have to speak to a customer-service drone. And it's just plain cool. We took the app for a literal and metaphorical test drive to see if it made life easier or just took us for a ride. Click 'Continue' to see it in action, or download here from iTunes.

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We made our booking over the phone, but booking in the app is easy and packed with features, such as the ability to pick your car from a map or a list of cars showing their availability. Once the booking is made, you can amend or cancel it in the app, too.
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A Google map in the app led us right to the car we'd booked, and even included two photos of the parking lot and the car, so it was easy to find.
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Normally, you unlock the car by holding a Streetcar membership card against the reader in the window -- the keys are inside the car. With the iPhone app, we slid a very Apple-style slider to unlock the car, and after a few seconds of communicating with Streetcar, the doors opened. You might still want to carry your membership card, however, in case you don't have a data signal or your batteries run out.
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Once inside the car, things get slightly less high-tech, as you use a chintzy-looking handheld terminal to log in to the car and release the keys. We wondered if this was overkill, since we'd already logged into the iPhone app to unlock the car, but it makes sense for users who don't have the app, since anyone who nicks your wallet could run off with your Streetcar without needing your PIN.
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