This little guy’s days are numbered
Updated: TomTom app information updated to reflect its new subscription model and added the AutoMate app.
In-car technology has been steadily improving, with the likes of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto paving the way for those who appreciate a dashboard full of gadgets and goodies. Not all of us are lucky enough to have cars with these options, however.
So, what’s a driver of a “dumb” car to do? We’ve compiled a list of 10 apps that will bring even the most battered and dated of cars up to 21st century standards.
Once, a bulky Sat Nav (or GPS) unit was your only option if you wanted a gadget to guide you to your destination. Now, the likes of TomTom and Garmin offer apps, saving you from carrying yet another object around with you.
Available for various regions on both iOS and Android, TomTomis free for the first 50 miles of use each month, but requires a subscription for unlimited use. Subscriptions are $21.99 /£14.99 (converted to AU$29.08) a year or $49.99 / £34.99 (AU$66.10) for 3 years.
Giving it the edge over free solutions such as Google Maps, TomTom offers speed camera warnings, giving you a heads up when it comes to upcoming speed traps. Its interface is also comparatively clutter-free, making it much easier to glance at while driving.
For a slightly less intuitive, but entirely free, Sat Nav solution, Waze can’t be beat. Offering community-driven features, it encourages crowd sourcing as a means to keep you informed of accidents, police traps, and traffic jams in your local area.
On top of that, it provides turn-by-turn voice navigation, automatic rerouting and the ability to send your ETA to your friends, so they know you’re on the way. The option to add and view information on local sights and businesses is convenient for those new to an area also.
Don’t expect Waze to be as easy to use as something like TomTom. But, with a little brain retraining, it’s a convenient, affordable alternative.
Dashcams are increasingly popular accessories for cars. Being able to record your journeys means you have concrete evidence in case of an accident, but it also means you can capture some fantastic footage as so many Russian dashcams have over the years.
Carcorder and a dashboard mount turns your iPhone into a capable dashcam, allowing you to switch between multiple resolutions, track your location, and know when you’re driving too fast. It’s not as comprehensive as a dedicated unit, but for only $1.99 (£1.49, AU$2.49), it’s an excellent starting place.
An increasing number of cars offer forward collision warning systems, detecting when a car in front has slammed the brakes on, before you’ve had a chance to see it yourself.
For $0.99 (about £0.92, AU$1.42), iOnRoad isn’t a perfect substitute for this, partly because you need to (ironically) keep an eye on your phone’s screen, but it can be helpful. Using your phone’s camera and GPS, it detects how long it would take for you to collide with the vehicle in front of you. A color coding chart gives you an indication if you’re getting too close, ensuring you don’t tailgate by accident. Speed sign detection is also included.
Allowing you to use your dashboard mounted iPhone safely, for $1.99 (about £1.31, AU$2.84) iCarMode offers up a big buttoned display, making it simple for you to activate a music player, call your friends, and check for places nearby.
Custom app shortcuts support apps such as Spotify, Audible, and TuneIn Radio, saving you from having to look at overly small buttons every time you want to make an adjustment on your trip. A night mode means it’ll fit into the aesthetics of your car too.
For older cars, it’s an ideal substitute for built-in dashboard systems that more recent cars offer.
The best Android dashboard replacement, Dashdroid keeps it simple with eight custom buttons and a central display. The display offers the current time, weather as well as your current speed, while voice commands ensure you don’t have to take your hands off the steering wheel to make a call or text.
It could look more stylish, but its focus on a clean interface means it won’t distract you while driving. You can customize buttons for your frequently used apps too. And, finally, it’s free.
Not everyone can spring for a new car or radio with Android Auto connectivity, but AutoMate brings the clean car-friendly user interface to any Android phone or tablet. AutoMate integrates with Google Maps, messaging, phone calls, music apps and voice controls.
There’s integration with the Vinli dongle and Torque app to let you monitor vehicle performance and fuel economy, too.
The app is free for basic features, but you can pay $3.17 (converted to £2.25 or AU$4.19) to unlock premium features that lets you set AutoMate as the default phone launcher. Premium also adds hands-free gesture controls, like you can get in a BMW 750i, traffic camera alerts and custom wallpaper.
Beat the Traffic
Your daily commute is a drive that you can almost do in your sleep. You don’t need guidance on how to get there, but you do need to know when a traffic jam or incident is in your way.
Beat the Traffic provides real-time traffic updates, crowd sourced by other users, before providing you with a new quickest route to dodge the issue. All for 100% free.
Spot an incident that hasn’t been reported yet? Simply shake your device to give others the heads up. You’ll always know just how delayed you’re going to be.
Buying cheap gas can make a world of difference to your car’s running costs. While those few cents or pennies don’t seem that significant on their own, they soon add up. GasBuddy sets out to find the cheapest gas near you, no matter where you are.
You can search via your current location or via a city or zip code, meaning you know exactly what’s ahead of you. For US users, submitting gas prices yourself gives you a chance of winning $100 (£65, AU$140) of gas each day, too, along with other awards for regular submissions. Better yet, it’s all free.
There’s no need to be restricted to using the traditional radio to listen to music any more. Streaming services like Spotify have taken off through your PC or phone, and they can be just as easily enjoyed through your car.
Some cars offer Spotify directly to your dashboard but for everyone else, you can use Bluetooth or an auxiliary jack to hook things up. The free app lets you listen to any artist or album, providing you have an internet connection, while subscribing offers offline listening and ad-free music.
Requiring a separate car adapter, Automatic is worth the initial outlay of $99 (£65, AU$141). It turns any car into a more connected car than either CarPlay or Android Auto can say, offering fuel level tracking, parking reminders, and fuel saving habits.
The app will track your miles per gallon, how much each journey costs you, and keep an eye on whether you’ve been braking excessively hard on those journeys. A separate feature is also there for analyzing engine lights and giving you some guidance as to whether there’s a problem and what you need to do to correct it.