How the iPhone Makes Driving Better

I’ve been a car guy for a lot longer than I’ve ever owned anything with an Apple logo, and in that time I’ve used a lot of tips and tricks to get my cars functioning the way I want them to. Then the other day, I was thinking about all of the things that I do with my iPhone while I’m in the car (except for texting, of course), and how much it’s improved the driver’s experience.

So I decided to jot a few things down, and next thing I knew I had a pretty big list in front of me. Let’s get into them after the break.

Entertainment

Part of the reason I bought my iPhone was so that I could get rid of my iPod. It made sense, and that way I only had to carry one device with me to and from the car. But this was a few years ago, and even though lots of cars had iPod connectors, they didn’t all work with iPhones. Today, however, it’s almost standard for a car to come with at least an auxiliary jack, and possibly an iPod connector that does work on the iPhone. It’s amazing.

The Clarion FZ501 lets you stream Bluetooth audio from your iPhone.

The Clarion FZ501 lets you stream Bluetooth audio from your iPhone.

But what’s even cooler is using Bluetooth to connect your iPhone to your car. I recently bought a new truck, and because I don’t really listen to AM/FM radio I decided to buy a Clarion head unit with Bluetooth that supports wireless music streaming. Now I can stream my music to the deck without even plugging it in. Better yet though, I can also stream the SiriusXM app without any extra equipment, or any other streaming option I want. That saved me cash on the head unit, and cash on the subscription fees to SiriusXM as well.

Navigation

If you want to get navigation in your car, you either need to cough up $2,000 or so at the dealership to get it installed from the factory, or spend from $500 and up on a custom stereo with navigation built in. With the iPhone, all I need is $35 for TomTom U.S.A. and I’m set. No more getting lost, plus I can take it out of the car if need be. Of course, you could buy a dedicated TomTom unit to plunk on your windshield, and for a while, I did that and was happy. Well, until it was stolen at the Hard Rock Hotel parking lot in Las Vegas, anyways. At least with my iPhone, everything is in one place.

TomTom makes navigation easy on the iPhone.

TomTom makes navigation easy on the iPhone.

As an added bonus, thanks to multitasking I can stream my SiriusXM while using TomTom for navigation, and still be able to get texts and phone calls as I go. No sweat at all.

Saving Money

Most of the time I’m travelling for business, and I need a way to keep track of my mileage. My current app is Xpense Tracker, and although it’s not perfect, I’m finding it suitable for tracking mileage for tax purposes. For mileage per gallon, I’ve tried Gas Book before, and that’s not too bad, either.

Gas seems to creep up in price every day, and most of the time I’m driving a vehicle with horrible MPG (although short distances), so when I need gas I want it cheap. I’ve had mixed results with a few different apps, but recently Fuel Finder has been doing OK on my end. There’s still no perfect option for me, but I’ll keep looking.

The Oddball Stuff

I build custom cars, and sometimes the speedometer in the car doesn’t match the actual speed I’m travelling. Worse yet, some of the older cars I’ve driven have speedometers that fluctuate wildly, or randomly fail. It’s never a good idea to get busted for speeding, so I went out and bought Speedometer!. Now I have a way to track my speed on those test runs, or when the car decides that it doesn’t want the stock speedometer to work.

When my car is in the shop, it means that I have to find an alternative mode of transportation. Usually it’s a rental car company such as Hertz or Zipcar, but if I ever want to ride the bus, there are options as well. I’m in Phoenix, so public transportation is just getting started. But if I were in NYC or another major city, the options for subway and transportation are pretty limitless.

Although I’m a car guy, I’m not an expert on everything mechanical. As a result, there are apps I use when I’ve got a problem with my car, such as RepairPal, or if I’m stuck and can’t diagnose the problem, there’s always AAA Roadside.

Final Thoughts

At first glance, it seems obvious that the iPhone would make driving a more positive experience. After all, being able to play your music while driving is one of those things that some people take for granted. But by expanding your options and looking at what you can do a little bit differently, you can actually do a whole lot more with your iPhone than you ever thought of. And this is just what I use on a day-to-day basis. If you’ve got other ideas or suggestions, leave them in the comments!


  • http://www.witnessphoneapp.com Andrew Wright

    Another app your readers might like to look at is Witness Driving for iPhone (and soon for Android). It allows you to film through the windscreen on a rolling loop and save any interesting incidents after they occur – we developed it as protection from crash-for-cash scams and to prevent that awful “it-was-your-fault-no-it-wasn’t” debate after a bump. It’s only $0.99 and absolutely simple to use.