[Originally Published: July 31, 2012]
Couple of quick things before we get into the meat of the column this week.
First of all, we are going to look at some fantastic apps this week but nothing having to do with music or navigation. Those are the two grand-daddy groups of apps that for many have now become prerequisite items for a long drive. Long gone are the days when you need to suffer with mediocre FM radio and attempt to find new stations as you enter new areas. Long gone too are the days of having to remember your GPS device or (gasp!) print Mapquest Maps. Hopefully by now everyone has a handful of great apps like MOG, Google Music, TuneIn Radio or Subsonic that let you enjoy great music in the car and make the drive easier.
Likewise, I am sure most people already have a favorite navigation app to get from Point A to Point B. My personal favorite is Waze but of course love using Google Maps Navigation as well.
Finally, before we tell you about a few awesome apps for the car – pointing out Subsonic reminds me that Technology Tuesday is One-Year-Old as of last week! Since first highlighting Subsonic last year, Technology Tuesday has had the pleasure of highlighting fantastic gadgets, devices, speakers, headphones, web services, apps, photography tips, phones, mobile services, tutorials and other things that hopefully have fulfilled the column’s mission as laid out in the first week:
Sometimes it’s tough to stay on top of all the cool gadgets, apps, software, web services and other things that makes our lives easier, better, more enjoyable and just plain more fun.
So thanks again for reading! Your Facebook Likes, Re-Tweets, Google +1’s and comments are very much appreciated. As always, please do use the contact info at the bottom of every column for suggestions or things you’d like covered.
Platform: Android, Coming Soon to iOS
What It Is and Why It’s Awesome: It says buzz off for you! According to the developers: “Bzzy is a simple, fast, text-message autoreply that tells your friends that you’re busy. That you’re driving, eating, flying – or anything else. Tell your friends to buzz off. But in a nice way.”
So here’s what it does: Open Bzzy, pick one of the activities you are currently “bzzy” with (driving, eating, watching a movie, etc.) or create your own custom message. That’s it! Bzzy does everything for you: Turns off your ringer and auto-responds to anyone that texts you that you are currently busy. When you turn Bzzy off, it tells you exactly how many texts you received while you were incommunicado.
This is an idiot proof and dead simple app to use. One button to push and that’s it. A notification reminds you that Bzzy is responding to your messages. Not only can this app potentially save your life while driving, it is ultra convenient for other times when you don’t want to be bothered by texts and phones calls and don’t want to completely power off your phone. A simple response from Bzzy lets the other party know you got their message and will reply when possible.
[Sit or Squat]
App: Sit or Squat
Platform: Android, iOS
What It Is and Why It’s Awesome: Crowd sourced public restroom locator sponsored by Charmin. Let’s face it: When you spend a lot of time in the car, there will be those times when you just have to find some facilities. There’s nothing more disconcerting than having to use inadequate or disgusting restrooms. Of course, sometimes when travelling, either in the country, or in a busy city, there’s the issue of even finding an unlocked restroom at all.
Sit or Squat solves these issues. Simply open the app and you are instantly geo-located with all the public restrooms nearby. A green icon tells you that the restroom is “Sit” friendly (well rated) while a red toilet paper icon tells you that you’ll likely need to “Squat” (poorly rated). You can log in with Facebook, and leave your own ratings and even upload pictures. While it may seem creepy or odd to be rating restrooms and taking and viewing pictures of them, this can make a long road trip a little more comfortable. Filtering can be done if you need to find baby changing tables, family restrooms, hygiene vending machines and many other things.
Note: There are many 1-Star reviews based upon the necessity of logging in with Facebook. It should be noted that I am not a fan of a Facebook requirement for anything either. However, you can browse reviews, use the locator and look at pictures of reviewed facilities without logging in. The FB requirement is only if you want to review or upload a picture.
Platform: Android, iOS
What it is and Why it is Awesome: Find cheap gas! There’s scores of apps that will help you find the cheapest gas around. But there’s one that stands heads and shoulders among the rest and has the most current and most comprehensive information (because of the most users). GasBuddy works flawlessly and intuitively. Simply open it up, tap “Find Gas Near Me” and quickly get current prices of all the gas stations near you. You can toggle between list view or map view and sort by price or proximity. Of course, you can search for Diesel prices plus mid-grade and premium as well as the default regular. Within five miles of me, I have 26 stations listed and 24 have prices that have been updated TODAY. That is up-to-date info and clearly displayed as the most current update. Of course, you can update prices as well.
Station listings also include services offered (convenience store, air, payphone, etc.) as well as photos making it a fantastic utility when traveling and looking for a station to stop at.
In the stations with current prices, I have a range of Regular prices from $3.42/gallon all the way up to $3.89/gallon. I personally use about 1,200-1,500 gallons of gas per year. It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate the several hundred dollar savings per year possible by saving an average of even $.20/gallon with every fill-up.
App: Carr Matey
What it is and Why it is Awesome: Car location apps are a dime a dozen. Yet, none pull the simple task off with the finesse and fun that Carr Matey offers. Serving up a pirate theme, you can “drop anchor” to leave the location of your “ship” no matter if it’s the vast expanse of a concert field at a festival, stadium lots, in a gigantic mall parking lot or on an unfamiliar city street. When it is time to get back to your car, simply tap “Find Vessel” to be navigated to within a few feet of your car. Should you be parked in a garage without GPS signals, you can use the “Harbor” feature to easily mark Level, Letter, Space and/or Color of your parking spot. Of course it may be just as easy to leave a memo somewhere, but always having your parking locations in the same spot is a good idea. “Travel Logs” (your history), timers (to remind you of parking meters for example) and being able to find your car with either map or compass are all features of this fantastic app.
Price: Free Android
What it is and Why it is Awesome: A simple and easy to use app to find out what is coming up at each interchange on the interstates that you are driving on. While it is easy to fire up Yelp!, Google Maps, or scores of other apps to find out what is nearby, nothing does it quite as well as iExit. Restaurants, hotels, gas stations and other services are neatly and chronologically arranged so you know exactly what is coming up sequentially as you travel. The issue with other apps is that a particular point of interest may display that it is close by, but it may be on the other side of the highway necessitating a long U-Turn and inconvenience.
Humorously, the apps description in the App Store claims, “It’s designed to easily communicate which upcoming exits have what you need, whether that’s gas, a hotel, a rest area, or specifically a Chick-Fil-A.” I’d just assume use the app for the complete opposite: ensuring that I was getting off at an exit with food offerings other than the bigoted and homophobic offerings of Chick-Fil-A. Regardless how you use it, iExit will help you find exactly what you are looking for.
Price: $.99 iOS
Postscript: I’d like to give a huge hat tip to the Consequence of Sound music blog. It is a site that myself and many other Hidden Track staff members read and admire very much for their in-depth coverage, reviews and quality writing. In addition to reading their blog, I also follow @coslive on Twitter and saw a Tweet about an Android App. For some reason, I had neglected to realize that they had an app for both iOS and Android. I finally got around to downloading the Android App last week and really love it. It is like Flipboard or Pulse with nothing but CoS editorials, festival info, reviews, interviews, etc.
However, after a couple of days of installation, I started getting notifications about new content. I’ve always found this off-putting and a little spammy to have these types of things pop up in my status bar. It was even more frustrating not being able to toggle that feature off. So I uninstalled & tweeted at CoS my disdain for this type of app behavior. Immediately, @coslive asked me if I wouldn’t mind emailing the developer with my concern. First thing in the morning, I received a gracious response and was informed that they recognized that this was an issue, that they made a modification to the app and had submitted an update to the Play Store.
Sure enough, I just downloaded the newest version and can indeed toggle off notifications. That’s what I call listening to consumers & providing great service. Way to go CoS! I wish all developers were willing to listen to feedback and nimbly react like this. I’m happily enjoying CoS content on my phone again!
[Consequence of Sound Android App]
Hidden Track Technology Tuesday
voice-mail: (781) 285-8696
Have an idea for an article? Product, app, or web service you are passionate about? Feel free to get in touch with me.