CNET Top 5
Top 5 Apps for DrivingSome of the most disruptive app development has taken place in the driving category. CNET's Brian Cooley tells you about five of the best car apps that you really need.
I?m gonna rank these by their categories, and give you some examples of each. And we?re not covering music apps because, I betcha have that staked out already and telematics apps, like OnStar since those are very specific to the car you own. Performance Apps I put these at #5 because, lets face it most folks don?t give a rat?s ass how many G?s they?re pulling. But If you do, these apps pair with an OBD-II dongle you plug into your car and merges the car?s data with time and GPS location to unlock the unseen world of motoring. We use one for some CNET On Cars shoots that merges the data with the video out the windshield. And even without a OBD-II dongle, your phone?s built in accelerometer can do a lot to coach you to drive more efficiently, for example. Others function as GPS speedometer/odometer and some even have a mode to become a sort of poor mans HUD. This is the category for car geeks. Gas apps I rank these low-ish because I think most of us just buy gas where its handy as the light comes on. But if you?re the Ben Franklin type, these are great for finding cheap gas and tracking the real world fuel economy your car is delivering. Won?t you be surprised when its different from what the car?s computer says! These are also great for quickly finding the nearest gas in a car without built in navigation. Parking Apps One of the great driving frustrations of driving remains what to do with your car when you get there. We still drive around and around the block in a combination of childlike faith and pagan ritual, hoping to find a spot. Parking apps can reveal municipal data on where spots are available in garages, as well as any cost to use them? ...tap crowdsourced info about spots that people are leaving or spotting... And don?t forget the ones that let you actually pay for the spot and renew it without having to run back to the car with coins or a card. Use one of these and rediscover your childhood some other way. Navigation & Map apps Duh. Being able to live search for what you need?tell the app to nav you to the result...or take you to the address of what?s coming up in your calendar ...fold in live traffic conditions and best route info that includes crowdsourcing? ...or find a great scenic drive when you?re not in a hurry ..and run it all with voice command? all done better on your $200 phone than car?s $2,000 nav system. But not more safely, which we?ll tackle with #1... Before I get to #1, I?ll tell you what it won?t be to some of your howls of objection: Speed apps. I know they?re popular, calling out speed traps and even alcohol checkpoints. But there is just something unseemly about apps meant to circumvent enforcement of laws that work best because when you don?t know where Smokey is. Car Mode Apps This is the one that turns your phone into less of a disaster waiting to happen. The idea is putting car-relevant stuff on the screen behind big buttons...burying the 99% of your apps you shouldn?t be using while driving ...and rolling in easy access to voice command ...with bonus points for those that also combine a slick HUD mode. Customizable buttons help make it yours. Combine it with a good windshield mount, not one of those flimsy ones you get for $7 at the car wash store and you?ve got something great.