Car Lover Christmas Gift Idea: Automotive Apps
Fifteen years ago, if you were left unsatisfied by the information relayed by your vehicle’s stock readouts, you’d need to delve into the aftermarket, purchase a cluster or two, buy an individual gauge for each parameter you were interested in monitoring, tear out the dash, break out the wire splitters, and sweat over wayward electrons. Now, thankfully, there’s an app for that. Whether it’s boost, mileage, 0-to-60 times, lateral acceleration, or any of the countless other ways to quantify the things a car can do, smartphones have simplified the quest to satiate the car lover’s curiosity. Installation is usually no more complicated than plug-and-play, and all the information you could want is sent directly to your device.
As the annual gift-giving season once again descends upon us, many are searching for something to give that special gear head in their life. An app might be the perfect solution: not only is it thoughtful, you won’t be sending your favorite car lover back to the garage for a few consecutive weekends of wrench turning.
In this article, we review apps that fall into two basic categories: vitals and performance. The vitals monitor the nitty gritty of what’s happening in the guts of the car, which is particularly important on any vehicle that’s been modified with go-faster parts. The performance apps record statistics like 0-to-60 times and lateral acceleration to offer a little more accuracy over the ‘ole butt-o-meter.
While an app may be a tricky gift to wrap, a few do require extra physical parts to function properly. So read through our suggestions, check that naughty and nice list a couple times, and feel confident that you aren’t gifting socks with a turbocharger printed across them.
Click past the jump to read more about automotive performance apps.
DashCommand (iOS and Android)
As a four-time SEMA Global Media Winner, the DashCommand app is recognized as one of the best aftermarket data loggers available to the casual enthusiast. After connecting to an external OBD-II reader, DashCommand offers its users a huge selection of data to pour over, covering performance (engine speed, boost/vacuum, corrected vehicle speed, etc.), fuel mileage (instant economy, average economy, distance to empty, etc.), engine data (timing, mass airflow, air/fuel ratio, etc.), and a trip computer (distance traveled, fuel cost, max speed, etc.).
The app also uses your device’s accelerometer to offer numbers on skidpad performance, a racetrack visualizer to analyze braking zones and corner throttle management, and an inclinometer for off-roading.
Overall, this looks like a rather comprehensive package. While your particular vehicle might not offer the occasional parameter, if it can be pulled from the OBD-II, DashCommand will display it.
Looking for a quick way to measure the benefits gained by those new tires and exhaust? PocketDyno has you covered. With nothing extra to buy or install, just download the app, fire it up, calibrate, wait for the green, and hit the go pedal. The app records up to 20 different metrics for time, speed, acceleration, and power, and stores vehicle profiles for easy comparison. Best used for drag racing purposes, this app is simple to use and only costs $2.99 at the iTunes store. It’s optimized for the iPhone 5, but is compatible with any device that comes with iOS 6 or later, including the iPad and iPod.
Apple users aren’t the only ones getting in on the fun. Android users can download the Dynomaster app, which also combines accelerometer and GPS data to record accurate data on a plethora of performance specs, like track position, speed, acceleration, altitude, bearing, absolute time, elapsed time, and horsepower. You get graphical analysis, spreadsheet logging, instant replay, and social media connectivity to back up those big claims you’ve been bragging about.
Head over to the Android Market to pick it up for only $2.99.
So you got your apps and you’re ready to roll. Now all you need is some way to secure your smartphone in the cabin. For that, we suggest the Aduro U-GRIP Plus Universal Car Mount. Installation is easy, with a suction cup that sticks to any flat surface (not just the windshield) with the push of a lever. The U-GRIP fits most phones with screens sized 3.5 through 5.5-inches, and can rotate in a variety of directions to fit your needs. Get it on sale at Amazon for $9.99 here.
A little shameless self-promotion never hurt anyone, right? Don’t forget to check out the TopSpeed.com app for your iOS device here. Stay connected with the latest news, reviews, and podcasts, plus sort through articles by make, model, and topic for easy browsing. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?