#MacStoriesDeals – Wednesday
Chatology Review: Flexibits Reinvents Messages.app Search
The iOS 7 Summer
iOS 7: Thoughts and Questions
Apple Releases New MacBook Airs, Previews New Mac Pro Design
Developed by High Caffeine Content, Speed is one of those apps that wouldn’t have been possible — or at least, nearly as enjoyable — ten years ago. Built for simplicity, elegance, and extreme practicality, Speed is a GPS speedometer that uses the iPad’s location data to tell you how fast you’re traveling. It works with iPads that have GPS available, and it has been designed to take full advantage of the Retina display. With a combination of Google Maps and beautifully represented compass, speedometer, and tripmeter laid out against a lusty black leather texture, Speed won’t replace all the functions of your car’s dashboard, but it also offers a glimpse into the future of car interfaces.
I have always believed that, in the future, car manufacturers and designers would opt for more driver-friendly touch interfaces and displays. Whilst not fully there yet, Speed is a great example of what the basics of this concept may look like a few years from now. A large display, a good-looking interface and menus, touch controls, built-in GPS and data polled directly from Google Maps. More importantly, all packaged into a consumer product that also happens to run an app that looks like a minimal car dashboard. Several car makers have already experimented with modular setups to allow for iOS devices to become a central part of the automobile experience; Speed shows that, with modern technologies, even third-party developers can produce something functional and pleasant.
I actually gave Speed a try in my Polo, driving around Viterbo and up to San Martino al Cimino. Once I switched from mph to kmh (just touch the speedometer), the app started updating my location on the map as I was driving, and it started tracking my speed and trip length. The app is surprisingly fast at detecting changes in speed: I have noticed it takes less than 2 seconds to detect sudden braking or stop. The developers say Speed offers a “a near-accurate representation”, and I can attest that’s absolutely the case here. Even better, because of this slight delay, if you’re keeping a constant speed it’ll seem as if the app really knows how fast you’re driving. The technology and implementation are quite impressive.
Some may deem Speed as a nice demo, but useless. While that’s certainly the case if you’re only looking for a full-time replacement for your car’s dashboard — and honestly, how can you expect an iPad to be 100% ready for that yet? — I think the app is worth checking out for its elegance and solid feature set alone. There are even some settings to adjust to magnetic north, use analog/digital speedometers, and use a speed limiter. On a more practical level, these features and settings make for, say, a pretty sweet solution to monitor trip lengths or check just how fast the local bus driver is traveling. It’d be nice to see the app gaining richer data representations (average speed, mileage history, speed patterns) in a future update.
The opportunity for Post-PC devices to improve existing technologies and appliances is huge. Speed is one of the many examples, and a very well-built one. Get the app here, and check out a video below. (more…)
Getaround, a peer-to-peer car rental marketplace that allows you to rent a car in your neighborhood from “real people”, is launching publicly today with an iPhone app available in the App Store for free. Just like popular service AirBnB allows you to find places to stay using an app on your iPhone, Getaround lets you rent cars by day or week from actual people who are also using the service, and not car rental services that force you to pick up a car in a single location. By integrating with Google Maps and thanks to full backing from a car insurance company, Getaround lets you immediately see on your phone which cars are available and where, who’s renting them and for how long / at which rate they’re available. Furthermore, the company has also started shipping the Getaround CarKit, a device that once installed on a car will allow to unlock it without a key, only using your iPhone and a virtual “key” interface that also shows the name of the person that has agreed to share his car.
This idea of renting cars using mobile apps and web interfaces is nothing new, but Getaround’s implementation looks impressive: not only they’re building a community to help you discover people that might share your common interests, Getaround actually helps you get a car with full insurance and a kit that doesn’t need any key in your pockets. For those who decide to share their car (Getaround says most cars in the US stay sit idle for 22 hours a day on average), this service will help them earn some dollars each month, and even “review and rate” the person who took their car thanks to a full-featured community website.
TechCrunch reports a statement from co-founder Jessica Scorpio:
Getaround gives people more choices, going far beyond traditional rentals to provide more local and affordable alternatives. We’ve also found that our members like the “community building” aspect, where Getaround connects them with people who share similar values and interests. As an added benefit, we help people protect the environment by sharing resources, taking unneeded cars off the road and reducing traffic and auto emissions through better planning.
Users can sign up to Getaround for free, and the whole service is completely free to use unless you consider the 40% commission they’re taking off a successful rental. Getaround is rolling out today in the US starting with San Francisco, San Diego and other cities where “the most demand is”, though they have already announced they obviously plan to move outside the US in the future and offer mobile apps on other platforms.
Following recent news of Apple building a crowdsourced traffic service to launch in the next few years, it’ll be interesting to see whether competitors and third-party developers will start playing around with more car-oriented and traffic-based services for iOS devices. Insurance company State Farm — which I had never heard of before, but it turns out they’re pretty huge in the United States — released a new iPhone app a few days ago that’s aimed at monitoring your driving performances and giving you a score based on various factors like braking, acceleration and cornering. The concept is really simple: the worse you drive (severe acceleration or braking, for example), the lower score you get at the end of the test. How does the app keep track of all this? Again, simple: it uses a mix of Google Maps, iPhone accelerometer and GPS data to see where you’re going, and how you’re driving. I took the app for a spin tonight to see whether or not it would really work with the awful road that connects San Martino al Cimino to my town, Viterbo.
The app starts up with a screen that asks you to create a new user profile, although everything stays locally and it’s not sent to State Farm’s servers. You can create as many profiles as you want for all members of your family who drive and would like to try Driver Feedback. Once a profile is ready, the app will also ask you to place the iPhone on a flat surface in your car but not on the dashboard, so you won’t be distracted and the iPhone’s accelerometer can work properly to register brakes and stops. Tonight I decided to drive a little faster than I usually do (75 km/h on average instead of the usual 60 km/h on the aforementioned terrible road) to see if Driver Feedback could really give me a bad score once I arrived at my destination. Once you’re ready to go, all you have to do in Driver Feedback is wait for a sound effect (a countdown related to the iPhone being placed on a flat surface, luckily I have one in my VW Polo) and start driving.
It usually takes me less than 10 minutes to drive from San Martino to Viterbo. As I decided to drive relatively worse tonight (of course, without putting anyone to risk) to evaluate the app’s functionalities, I didn’t consider that it was raining, badly. So it turned out to be a pretty awful 7-minute car trip that I honestly won’t repeat ever again. And the app did notice after I was done: I got a 50/100 score with multiple severe acceleration and braking points, and lots of suggestions to improve my driving in the future. Driver Feedback can even keep a log of all your trips and it allows you to check out data points on a Google Map, too. In the Alerts tab, the app explains what you did wrong and why you should improve your driving style, whilst the main screen offers an option to share scores via email or text. The UI is minimal, and elegant.
From what I’ve seen so far, Driver Feedback is a well-realized product that might really help you fine-tune the way you drive. I’d like to see more factors being considered in the future (such as traffic, or weather conditions), but as it stands now State Farm’s Driver Feedback is a cool app for drivers, and a useful product to remind everyone that good driving can save gas, and lives. Go download the app here. (more…)
A new Pioneer car audio system is set to feature its own app system that also ties in with iOS devices and put it all on a very stylish iPad-eque front panel. The official FCC filing and a leak to CrunchGear reveals the Pioneer AppRadio, with a 6.1” display and an iOS-style home button in the center, will be loaded with specialised apps from Pandora Radio and iHeartRadio to GPS mapping software and traditional AM/FM radio.
In what is surely a sign of the times, Pioneer will not be including any optical drive in the device, opting instead for USB, RCA and S-Video inputs. CrunchGear contends in its report that the audio system will likely talk to iPhones and iPods through the USB interface for music as well as contacts and even some apps. The device also doesn’t have any internet access on its own and will likely rely on smartphones such as an iPhone to provide mobile connectivity for some of the internet apps such as Pandora.
To avoid problems surrounding distracted driving, the Pioneer AppRadio will also come with a steering wheel-mounted remote control as an option. Based on the FCC filing and the rumor, the AppRadio is believed to be “about ready” but no specific release date or pricing is yet known.
Back in July 2010 we reported German-based car manufacturer BMW was looking forward to integrating Apple’s iPhone into their automotive experience with a system called iDrive that, featuring a “plugin” option co-developed with Apple, would allow users to connect their iPhones to the car’s dashboard to access a variety of information and media like music from Pandora and the iPod app, as well as status updates coming from Twitter and Facebook.
Autoblog got the chance to try the new iDrive system built into all BMW models from Series 1 to 7 that will begin shipping next month, and reports the integration is really smooth and impressive on a technical side as all rendering is done on the iPhone, with the car’s dashboard only functioning as a screen. A you can see here and in the video embedded below, the iPhone fits in a cradle in the car’s console and is directly connected to the iDrive; with an active 3G connection on the iPhone and the BMW app installed, users will be able to stream music off Pandora’s radio stations with their own accounts, mark songs as favorite and even create new stations using the car’s iDrive knob. The integration goes as far as enabling users to access their Facebook and Twitter streams, with the possibility to generate automated status updates with your location and estimated time of arrival to a specific POI (based on the car’s navigation system) so you don’t have to type the whole message using the knob. BMW also decided to restrict some sections of Twitter and Facebook while a car is in motion, so drivers won’t be distracted by the streams.
BMW calls its Facebook and Twitter integration “Automotive Grade,” which is a nice way of saying “minimalist.” And as it should be. The primary function is less about reading status messages and updates, and more about sending a quick, pre-programmed post on the go. The system can pull in hundreds of data points from the vehicle and navigation system, allowing you to update your status with location information, weather and a host of other data. Want to let your friends know when you’ll be at the restaurant? The app can pull in your location and destination from the sat-nav and post an update saying you’ll be there in 15 minutes. And if the pre-packaged responses aren’t up to snuff, once you unhook the phone from the cradle, you can create your own canned responses and updates directly in the app, which also keeps track of vehicle mileage, service data and a handful of other useful bits of information.
Last, there’s the plugin functionality based on Apple’s iPod Out feature that’s been designed by Apple engineers, and as the name suggests plugs directly into an iPhone’s iPod.app music library to display artist’s information, album artwork and everything you would expect from iOS on a BMW car’s dashboard. It looks really neat and I wish I had the chance to try it out, too.
Videos of BMW iDrive and the background story embedded below. (more…)
Some things never die. Other things, the ones we don’t really care about or feel affection towards, are easily dismissible after a few years. Like gadgets, video game consoles, or clothes. But what about cars? Many say you are the car you drive. While we’d prefer to pass on discussing this very specific philosophy, there’s no doubt a car is something people usually keep for several years, as it ends up holding memories of friends, family, loved ones.
So here’s what German automaker Volkswagen is doing: they’re bringing back the memories of the mythical Microbus with their latest Bulli concept, a modern re-imagination of the legendary car that made history in Volkswagen’s portfolio. The best part, design aside? It’s got built-in support for the iPad as a control station for music and other information:
Of course, the full slate of new-age technology is on hand, including an Apple iPad that controls all infotainment functions, mated to a Fender USA-designed premium audio system. The Bulli uses a lithium-ion battery pack to drive a 113-horsepower electric motor and interestingly enough, Volkswagen says that the van can be fully charged in less than one hour. Good stuff.
Now: is it too much to hope Volkswagen doesn’t leave this a concept? [via Autoblog]
See the iPad above? That’s what happens when a Chrysler PT Cruiser, this lovely car, runs over it with its front and rear wheels. The “problem”, or perhaps the most surprising thing in this accident, is that the iPad still works. The glass is shattered, but the Home button / multitouch / accelerometer are all working.
As reported by our friends at TUAW, the iPad was inside a standard Apple Case when the PT Cruiser ran over it and as you can see in the video after the break the device is completely functional. Sure, it might not be a wise move to keep using that iPad with all that broken glass on screen, but this says a lot about the build quality and durability of Apple’s products over time and against the most serious accidents.
Everyone owns a smartphone so why not integrate it into your future car? Many automobile companies are already integrating them because it could be the next big thing. Skip the built-in GPS screen, plug in your iOS device and do more! Denso is showing a futuristic dashboard, with an iPhone embedded in the center of the steering wheel. Sounds distracting and dangerous but it controls the infotainment system and a small, circular LCD above with some widgets you can flick & bounce with a touch from the iPhone. It also communicates with traffic lights to inform you what speed to drive in order to meet them when they’re all green. Weird I know, but the idea is to save fuel (and money) by not stopping and starting all the time.
Video after the break. (more…)