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Metronome by MetroMile review: Free Metronome records trip data, enables per-mile car insurance

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Metronome app
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The Metronome app for iPhone shows car trips organized by day. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

After driving further, I opened the app again and saw the route I covered on a map. The app listed each trip I took, breaking it up at each of my stops. I could view my entire route for a specific day or each individual driving segment. Likewise, for each segment I could view driving time, fuel economy, and fuel cost. Another screen summarized those data points for each month.

As the app showed the last spot where I stopped the car, I could zoom in on the map to see where I had parked. However, there is no routing function in the app, so it can't tell me how to get to my car. It also can't port these locations over to other map apps on the phone. MetroMile says it is adding a feature to the app that will alert you if your car is parked in a street-sweeping time and zone. That feature will initially only work in San Francisco.

Logging into MetroMile's Web site let me view my trips and driving data in a larger format and even replay trip progress. The Web interface would be helpful for putting data into a personal budgeting program, except for the fact that it does not include an export function for driving data. I also did not see any means of entering the per-gallon price for each time I refueled. Without that data, MetroMile's fuel cost budgeting is only an approximation.

Metronome Web site
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The Metronome Web site shows the same information as the app but includes the ability to replay a trip. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Compared to other OBD-II devices, there are a lot of things the Metronome does not do. While it showed how much fuel I used, there was no driving coach function, helping me drive more efficiently. If I were a parent and let my kid use the car, I could see where it was driven, but Metronome does not have any active alerts for driving behavior or geo-fencing.

The app includes a car maintenance tab, but that merely shows whether the check engine light has come on. Metronome does not provide any detailed car diagnostic information.

Ultimately, I was impressed by how easy it was to get the Metronome plugged in and set up with the app and MetroMile system. The app graphics also look good and modern. The lack of features compared to other devices would normally put it low on my list. However, it is hard to argue with "free."

Obviously, MetroMile offers the Metronome as a kind of hook to get you to at least think about signing up for its insurance plan. Mile-based insurance will be appealing for many and could result in savings over existing insurance plans, depending on the individual situation. I know some people will be concerned about privacy, but if you carry a smartphone, that horse has already left the stable.

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