We previously reported on the popular Trapster application, which, at the time, was the only app that uses the iPhone to alert you of approaching police speed traps, red light cameras, and other kinds of law-enforcement related traps. The app now has some competition from NMobile (iTunes link), which is available from the iTunes store for an initial price of $9.99.
Njection LLC, the maker of NMobile, has simultaneously released VirtualEarthKit, a software development kit. Available under the BSD license, VirtualEarthKit is a Cocoa framework that will allow developers to access Virtual Earth's services, such as geocoding, reverse geocoding, imagery and more. VirtualEarthKit runs on both Mac OS X and the iPhone platform. It will be managed by Consonance Software.
We experimented with both products over a period of a few weeks in the Houston Metro area and found that, hands down, Trapster reported more hits in regards to speed traps and red light cameras than NMobile. We also took the apps on a holiday road trip across three states on Interstate 10 over the Thanksgiving holiday with essentially the same disparity in hits.
This is the advantage of a socially based app that is free (Trapster) vs. a paid application (NMobile). Trapster has more users, who have contributed more contributed user content than NMobile.
Although NMobile displayed its lack of content during our tests ,it shines in features when compared to Trapster. NMobile uses Microsoft Virtual Earth Web Services (VEWS), giving iPhone users (and developers) an alternative to Google Maps. VEWS works well, and NMobile allows you to control and manipulate the map using touch gestures. This feature makes the app's "Browse Mode" possible, because it allows users to check an area for speed traps and red light cameras, etc. by panning and zooming in/out on the displayed map.
While the app is in "Alert Mode." drivers are alerted to speed traps and other events audibly based on different criteria. These criteria are based on the app's Active Intelligence Selection System, which shows the most relevant trap based on speed, distance from the trap, direction of travel and time of day. Drivers are alerted about how far away from the trap they are so they can plan accordingly.
Once a driver is alerted, he or she can use the app to submit the trap as new or reverify a previously reported trap. Traps can also be reported via a website on a users laptop or desktop later. This is a good feature if you consider manipulating the screen while driving might prove hazardous in some driving conditions.
The app also prevents the iPhone from falling asleep and locking the screen. This feature is nice, but should be used only when the iPho plugged into a car charger, as the battery drain is significant. This presents another problem in which we noted that our iPhone became hot to the touch. It would be better if this feature were optional.
Most users would be better served by Trapster than NMobile, largely due to the fact that Trapster has more documented speed traps. Trapster also allows you to optionally leave the screen active saving power. NMobile definitely had the best mapping experience, and allows viewing of the map in portrait or landscape modes which Trapster does not support.