The latest smartphones and especially the new iPhone 3G have cleared the way for many interesting, exciting and fun applications for your cell phones. Regardless if you are an Apple fan or a Blackberry addict, there are many commercial-off-the-shelf applications that will connect the drivers with their cars, providing more interaction, sometimes without taking your hands off the wheel.
Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android or Blacberry’s famous business phones, are bringing new innovations to the table offering features like touch-sensitive screens with motion sensors, high-speed internet and especially, lots of computing power than transform your cellphone into a mini computer.
Despite the fact that I have been a Palm fan for the last 8 years, I recently gave in and purchased an iPhone 3G, basing my decision on the quality and amount of software available on their platform. So, I decided to try as many car-related applications as possible, starting with location-based software and ending with gas and mileage tracking.
One of the first applications that I used in my BMW was the Dynolicious, a car performance meter that takes advantage of the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer. Carrying a tag price of $13, Dynolicious is far from being expensive and it has proven to be a fun and useful application. Basically, you can track your car’s performance data, 0-62mph times, lateral and braking G forces and estimated engine horsepower.
Definitely a fun application that can be shown off to all your friends when bragging about your BMW’s performance. Nothing easier that displaying immediately realtime graphs or saved results.
While Dynolicious is mostly an entertaining app, there are others that I am using and are considered very useful in my book. One of them is Trapster, a mobile application which drivers use it to share the location of police speed traps by simply clicking their mobile phones. If you live in big city as Chicago, then you’re probably aware of the thousands of police cameras and speed traps.
With the help of other users and Google Maps, these locations can be pinpointed on the mobile map and speed tickets could be avoid. While I don’t condone speeding, I am aware that sometimes even a 5mph over the speed limit could mean a ticket issued to us. The nice part about Trapster is that it runs on Blackberries, Windows Mobile and Nokia phones as well, so 80% of the smartphone market can take advantage of it. Trapster is a FREE application.
Moving into the utility applications segment, AccuFuel is one of my favorite little piece of software since it monitors the car’s fuel efficiency, along with fillup history or built-in mileage ratings from hundreds of different vehicles. The fact that I can track and record the times I filled up my tank, it makes it very valuable to me at the end of the year when I draw the expenses line. At $9.99, you can’t go wrong.
Since most of the states have banned talking while driving, some new applications are trying to help the drivers by offering voice recognition features. Google’s latest iPhone app offers this feature which allows the users to do Google searches by simply speaking the phrases into the microphone. It’s true that I still need to lift up my phone and see the results, but if I’m looking for a street address or telephone number, the voice recognition feature reduces the amount of time being distracted from driving, much safer than having to input the words through the touch-screen or physical keyboard. Being free makes it even more appealing.
It is also worth mentioning applications like Yelp that could compliment your navigation system by pinpointing nearby gas stations, ATMs, restaurants,including their reviews or hotels. For our canadian friends, ToTraffic is a great application that displays cameras and traffic flow maps, guiding you through rush hour times.
The GPS chip found in almost every smartphone these days enables location aware services and increases the interaction between the drivers and compliments the vehicle’s latest features as well.
If you would like to read more about cellphone applications and their relevance to driving and cars, then I encourage you to read this article on Wheels.ca.