This episode of Featured App of the Week focuses on a collection of useful mobile apps you can use while operating your car. Whether you're commuting to work, taking a leisurely drive, or experiencing along road trip, the apps featured in this episode will help you save time, save money, and make navigation easier. You'll also learn about Apple CarPlay (for iPhone users) and Android Auto (for Android-based mobile device users).
The mobile apps and services featured within this episode include:
For more information about Jason R. Rich, please visit his website at www.JasonRich.com.
Featured App of the Week – Episode #23
Welcome back to the Featured App of the Week podcast. I’m Jason Rich. In today’s episode, the focus is on mobile apps that you can use as a driver in your car, even if your vehicle is not CarPlay or Android Auto compatible.
CarPlay and Android Auto are technologies that are built into many late-model vehicles, from virtually all car manufacturers. These technologies allow your smartphone to link with the Infotainment system within your car, either wirelessly via Bluetooth, or using a cable.
Once your smartphone and vehicle are connected, you’re able to control a wide range of smartphone features using the touchscreen on your car’s dashboard and the special button that’s built into your steering wheel.
For example, you can take advantage of real-time GPS using navigation apps installed within your Internet-connected smartphone, such as Maps, Google Maps or Waze.
You can also listen to your favorite music playlists; stream audio content from the web that will be heard through your car’s stereo system; have your smartphone read you incoming emails and text messages while you’re driving; or even tell you your upcoming appointments – all by speaking directly to your vehicle via your smartphone’s built-in digital assistant.
The benefit to Apple CarPlay, if you’re an iPhone user, or Android Auto, if you’re an Android-based smartphone user, is that you can focus all of your attention on your driving, but still take advantage of commonly used smartphone features, without ever taking your eyes of the road or manually handling your smartphone.
Even if your vehicle does not have CarPlay or Android Auto built in, there are a variety of apps you can use that are related to driving. For example, if you live in a city or plan to drive within a city, finding a place to park your car can be a huge challenge.
Using an optional parking app, you’re able to utilize the GPS built into your smartphone to pinpoint your exact location and direct you to the closest available metered parking spot or parking garage.
In some cases, you can even pay for your parking directly from your smartphone using Apple Pay or Google Pay, or a credit card or debit card that you’ve linked with the parking app.
To find mobile apps that’ll help you find and pay for a parking spot, launch the App Store or Google Play Store, and within the Search field, enter the keyword “parking.” You’ll discover apps like SpotHero and ParkMobile.
The SpotHero smartphone app, for example, is free. It works within many major U.S. cities and in conjunction with airport parking lots. Similar apps are available that work outside of the United States.
Using SpotHero, you can enter a location, time, and date range you need to park. The app will find nearby parking lots with available spaces, display parking rates, and allow you to pre-pay and reserve a spot. The app then provides turn-by-turn directions to the parking lot you’ve selected.
Meanwhile, the free ParkMobile app works in more than 350 U.S. cities, and in addition to helping you quickly find nearby parking in lots, this app will help you find and pay for metered street parking.
Then, if you’ve parked at a parking meter and need to extend your time, you can do it remotely via your smartphone, so you don’t need to return to your vehicle to replenish the parking meter manually.
Another benefit to the ParkMobile app is that when it comes to finding a parking garage with available spaces, not only does the app allow you to compare rates, it often offers an automatic discount, compared to the drive-up rates charged by many parking garages.
In terms of parking garages, the ParkMobile app offers parking options within cities, as well as near stadiums, airports, universities, and other frequented locations, where finding a parking spot can often be a challenge.
Another great app to have at your disposal if you’re an AAA member is the official AAAmobile app. While you’re out and about, this app helps you quickly find member discounts you’re entitled to at hotels, restaurants, car repair facilities, and local attractions, for example.
If you get stuck and need roadside assistance, the AAA app will pinpoint your location and allow you to request help with a few on-screen taps, then give you real-time updates about when help will arrive to your location.
Anytime you’re on a road trip, another useful app to have installed within your smartphone is called iExit RoadTrip. Using the GPS built into your smartphone, this free app shows you what services, lodging, and dining options are available at each exit and rest stop along your route. It’ll also help you quickly find the closest gas station with the lowest gas prices.
Another app that’s good to keep installed on your smartphone is the official app for your auto insurance provider. You can find and download this app by visiting the App Store or Google Play Store, and within the Search field, type the name of your auto insurance provider.
Auto instance provider apps store all of your policy information within your smartphone, so it’s always readily accessible. You’re also able to digitally pay your auto insurance bill, and if you get into an accident, for example, the app will help you collect the necessary information to file a claim.
When it comes to navigation, as an iPhone user, your smartphone comes with the Apple Maps app preinstalled. As you’ll discover, the iOS 14 version of the Maps app, which is being released in Fall 2020, offers some major enhancements.
Android mobile devices come with Google Maps preinstalled. However, if you want to add more real-time navigation functionality than what either Maps or Google Maps offers, you can download and install free alternatives from the App Store or Google Play Store.
For example, iPhone users can download and install the free Google Maps app to use instead of Apple’s Maps app. There’s also the extremely popular Waze app for iOS and Android, which is another free navigation app alternative.
In addition to providing detailed, turn-by-turn navigation to help you reach your destination, Waze is known for being able to warn you in real-time of potential delays related to traffic, nearby accidents, road construction, weather, lane closures, and other potential hazards. When necessary, the app will offer alternate route options.
Waze, which is used by more than 130 million drivers, also includes tools to help you quickly find nearby gas stations and restaurants, avoid speeding tickets by warning you of police speed traps and traffic cameras, and help you more easily find available parking options.
The Waze app is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so when your smartphone is linked with your vehicle, you can interact with the Waze app via your vehicle’s infotainment system.
Finally, if you’re driving an older vehicle that does not allow you to link your smartphone with your vehicle, there’s a useful service, called Automatic, that’s available to you.
For a monthly subscription fee between $2.00 and $5.00, you can plug a small device that’s provided into your vehicle’s dashboard, and then access useful vehicle information via the Automatic smartphone mobile app.
The Automatic device and service offer crash alert detection and emergency assistance, live location tracking and the ability to share your location, vehicle maintenance notifications, vehicle diagnostic tools, trip tracking, and the ability for your smartphone to automatically remember where you’ve parked your car.
Using Automatic, if your vehicle’s Check Engine light goes on, your smartphone will immediately and automatically check the error code and in easy-to-understand language, display details about the problem with your vehicle.
You’ll also be warned if driving the vehicle is unsafe, based on the reason for the Check Engine warning light being illuminated.
Keep in mind, website links to all of the services and mobile apps discussed during this episode are listed within the Episode Notes for this podcast episode, and as always, a text-based transcript of this Featured App of the Week episode is available.
If you found the information offered within this episode useful, please tell your friends about the podcast, post a positive review, and don’t forget to subscribe.
Each episode of the Featured App of the Week podcast is less than 10 minutes in length and covers just one of the ways you can use your smartphone or tablet to save time, save money, or be more protective. All of the information offered is unbiased and non-technical, so it’s always easy to understand.
That’s it for this episode of Featured App of the Week. I’m Jason Rich. Thanks for listening!