Top 7 apps for your car
There are many great apps for your smart phone but what are the best ones to use in your car? Let’s take a look at the top seven applications for your smart phone that will keep you safe and entertained in the car.
1. Google Navigation / Navigon
Any type of navigation software is probably a necessity at this point in time. Paper maps have pretty much disappeared, although they are still handy to have if your smart phone runs out of juice. If you have an Android phone, you have been blessed with a very good and free navigation solution. Google Navigation is getting better and better over time with live traffic and alternate routes. If you can bear the robotic voice of Google Navigation, you don’t need to buy navigation software for your phone, although there are alternatives like Navigon on Android.
If you’re on iOS, you’ll definitely need to invest a good aftermarket navigation app. The stock Google Maps is horribly outdated. Apple has not announced its own turn-by-turn navigation software yet so the next best thing is the Navigon app. I’ve used it extensively and think that it’s the best navigation software on iOS when compared with TomTom and Garmin. You can easily look up points of interest and get clear instructions read to you by a less robotic sounding voice. You can purchase life time live traffic updates via an in-app purchase, which I highly recommend you do as it can reroute you automatically to avoid congestion. The biggest gripe I have against Navigon is actually against iOS because there’s no integration of map data between applications. For example, if I found the address in the Yelp app, clicking on the address will only give me the option to view it in Google Maps and not Navigon. I then have to manually enter the address into the Navigon app or do a search for it. Fix this, Apple!
If you’re a boy-racer type, you’re going to love Dynolicious. Using the accelerometer inside the iPhone, this app can measure your acceleration times, speed, and G-forces. It is surprisingly accurate if you have a very solid mount for your phone inside your car. Can’t afford a GT-R to get the cool performance readouts on the head unit? This is the next best thing.
This app will allow you to have multiple profiles for your different vehilces. If have a car for autocross and another for your daily driver, this is perfect. There is a Test Run mode that allows the iPhone to track your acceration, braking, and G-force for your entire run, allow you to see a graph to see where you need to work on being consistent.
There’s also the option to theme the application but there’s only one theme right now. It’s a really cool theme that makes it look like the HUD of a jet. Hopefully more themes will be added soon.
3. Gas Buddy
If you drive a lot, you’ll appreciate Gas Buddy. With gas prices still very high, this application will help you track down the cheapest gas prices around you. It is community driven so some of the prices may be out of date but it is accurate for the most part. Since this app is community driven, you are encouraged to sign up for an account so that you can submit gas prices. Gas Buddy tries and buy your involvement by offering cash prizes, credit for fuel, and other types of prizes.
This app is great for finding out where the cheapest gas but I would like to see more features. The biggest thing I would like them to add is a way to track how efficiently you’re driving. This would be simple to integrate as you can figure it out easily at the pump by dividing the miles driven with the amount of gas you fill up at the pump.
4. Pandora / Last.fm / Audiogalaxy
Long drives are boring without some tunes. Since your phone has limited storage, why not just stream music using a service like Pandora or Last.fm. If you have an unlimited data plan, this is perfect. If you have a capped plan, be careful not to go over your monthly allowance or you will be charged overage fees.
Pandora is a really great service, allowing you to have customized mixes according to genre or similar artists. There are ads within the app that are very annoying. Recently they have begun including video ads in the application which is extremely distracting, especially while driving. I hope they get rid of the video ads on their mobile app as it could possibly cause accidents. If you want to get rid of ads all together, they offer a paid subscription for ad free and unlimited playback.
Last.fm has recently moved to a subscription only model. The use of the web site to stream is still free but using their mobile app for Android and iPhone will require a subscription which runs for $3 a month. The price isn’t bad but if you already have a subscription for music like Rdio or Mog, it doesn’t make sense. What I like most about Last.fm is that they track what you listen to and provide you graphs and charts about your listening habits that you can share with your friends.
Lastly, if you just want to listen to your own music library, Audiogalaxy is perfect. Since the iPhone’s storage is so limited, people with hundreds of gigabytes of music like me will find Audiogalaxy indispensable. You have to install an app on your computer with your music library and link it to your account. After the software fingerprints your tracks, they’re available to stream via their Android app, iPhone app or their website. You can then access all your playlists, and EVERY song you own. The only caveat is that your computer has to be on for it to work.
5. Drive Safe.ly
Distracted driving is a major killer. To combat this, smart phone app developers are trying to make it easier for people to interact with their phones without being distracted from driving. Drive Safe.ly has done this by making an app that takes phone calls, email, and text messages for you. If you have a boss that constantly contacts you, this app is great.
When you get in the car, activate the app and you’re good to go. If someone calls, texts, or emails, the app will auto respond with a preset message telling the other person that you are driving and will get back to them shortly. Drive Safe.ly will also read back the sender’s name as well as the subject of the email or read the body of a text message to you. If you hear that it’s something urgent, you can pull over and answer.
6. Google Voice Actions / Voice Control
Another way companies are trying to combat distracted driving is making your phone smart enough to take voice commands. Google leads the industry with its excellent Voice Actions in Android. You can place calls, text, search, and navigate all by using your voice. Any text field can be filled in by voice by pressing the microphone button on the default Android keyboard.
The iPhone has a long way to go with their voice commands as it can only place calls and control music play back at this point in time. Apple bought voice search company, Siri, and should be integrating its technology in its phones in the future, even as soon as the fall release of iOS 5. Let’s hope that Apple can catch up to Google in terms of usability and elegance.
7. OnStar MyLink
If you own a GM car with a subscription to OnStar, you have access to their slick iPhone app that allows you to monitor, unlock, and start your car remotely. You’ll never have to miss an oil change again as the app will keep track of oil levels, mileage, and the general status of your vehicle from afar. Remote car starters used to only be available to the most exotic of cars but is now available to a budget Chevy sedan. We’ve come a long way! Its nice to see that American car makers are taking technology seriously as they had trailed behind its foreign competitors for some time. If you have a Chevy Volt, there is an app to show the charge of your vehicle as well as help you locate charging stations around you.