In When your car is your phone, which appeared in the Mobile issue of the Headlight blog, I covered phone/car integration and the potential impact of the current mobile-application-development frenzy. I posited that the platform of choice for automakers will likely be the iPhone for two reasons:
1) It is the most user-friendly mobile phone designed to date;
2) It is attracting third-party application developers in droves.
While Google Android has sparked a lot of interest, it is clear that the iPhone platform is gaining the initiative in the mobile platform wars. Even Google is hedging its bets by creating iPhone applications (more on that below).
Out of the 500-plus applications released in July with the launch of the iTunes App Store, there are a number of noteworthy automobile-focused applications based on the GPS capabilities of the iPhone. I’ll look at a few of the standouts in this article.
The creators of Carticipate describe their app as an “experiment in social transportation” and it cleverly combines three hot-button themes: environmentalism, skyrocketing gas prices and social media. The Carticipate application, as seen at right, helps users to find members in their social networks in order to share rides. Users can also notify friends, groups or family members as to their travel plans.
Simply enter your destination and the app will show members in your network who have the same travel plans. Carticipate also lets you save destinations – for example “home” or “work.”
The application is compatible with the iPhone and iPhone 3G and is available free of charge from the iTunes App Store.
While not designed specifically for cars, it’s an easy bet that Google Mobile will be the search engine of choice for car drivers due to its focus on relevance, map integration and sheer market dominance. Features of the free app include the ability to search iPhone contacts, time-saving suggestions such as search history and auto-complete, and one-touch access to services such as Mail, Photos, Talk and Reader (see video demonstration). Interestingly, of the 500-plus applications available at the time of the app store launch, Google was the only search engine to build an application for the iPhone.
Key to success in applications these days is specificity, and a prime example of this is G-Park developed by PosiMotion. G-Park, like many of the newly released iPhone applications, focuses on one simple function.
G-Park pinpoints your location via GPS, assuming you can remember to do that, and then saves your location so that you can find your car later. Simply hit the “Where did I park?” button, as shown at right, and you are linked to Google Maps with directions to your car (see demonstration video). An app like this could be especially useful if you are parked in a large airport lot and will be traveling for a couple of days.
The application works on the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPod Touch with G-Fi Mobile GPS network router. The G-Park app retails for $.99.
Created by 19-year-old Dubliner Steven Troughton-Smith, Speed uses the GPS functionality of the iPhone to tell you, with a fair amount of accuracy, how fast you are going. While this may seem redundant for cars, it can also be used for boats, bicycles, trains and various other modes of transportation. You can easily switch from MPH to KPH by tapping on the display. The Speed application is compatible with the iPhone 3G and is available free of charge.
Where is an application that uses services with location-based data, such as Yelp, to find restaurants, rental cars, hotels, events and where your friends are. The application also helps you, as shown at right, to find the cheapest gas for your location by pulling in data from GasBuddy.com. This kind of data is particularly important to have on mobile because, as explained on the GasBuddy site, “gasoline prices change frequently and may vary by as much as 20 percent within only a few blocks.” The Where application is compatible with the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and the iTouch and is available free of charge.
Your car as Operating System
GPS-enabled applications such as G-Park, Carticipate, Where, and so on are emblematic of a new wave of innovation in the development of applications for automobiles. It is only a matter of time before applications like these make their way into the dashboads of automobiles through alliances between car manufacturers, mobile device manufacturers, wireless carriers, and application developers. Imagine being able to pick and choose applications that you want to install in your car just as you would on a Mac or PC. While this may seem far-fetched and complicated, automobiles are increasingly becoming mobile computing platforms in their own right (think Ford Sync). As discussed in the aforementioned article, When Your Phone is Your Car, the iPhone is a prime contender for in-car integration due to its ease of use and early adoption by numerous developers. It will be interesting to watch the effect of these kinds of applications on the design of cars and the overall driving experience in the next few years.
What mobile applications do you use in your car currently? What car-related applications would you like to see built for the iPhone or other platforms? Post your comments below to share your thoughts.
- Carticipate website
- iPhone App Store — G-Park; AppStoreApps video on Revver, 08.03.08
- G-Park information; PosiMotion website
- Dude where’s my car: G-Park iPhone app lets the forgetful bookmark their car; Gizmodo, 07.07.08
- Where website
- High Caffeine Content; blog for Steven Troughton-Smith, developer of Speed app for iPhone
- 24 iPhone applications that accelerate mobile search; SearchEngineWatch.com, 07.11.08