AccuFuel: Calculate and Graph Your MPG

I used to always fill up my car completely so I could do a quick MPG check against my trip meter, but with the price of gas lately I’ve been reluctant to spend $60 or $70 at the pump. I needed a tracking log so I could figure out my MPG across several partial fill ups. Some of you may also be interested in maximizing fuel efficiency or even hypermiling. AccuFuel (formerly named MPG) stands out among the various mileage tracking choices in the iTunes App Store. “Polished” is a word that gets used frequently in iPhone app reviews (at least for the good apps) but it certainly applies to AccuFuel.
Using the app is simple. You click on the “+” button on the gas pump on the main screen each time you fill up. Then you enter in the odometer reading, gallons, and price per gallon. You can also specify if this is a full or partial fill up so AccuFuel won’t get confused if you only decide to drop five bucks in the tank and top off the tank later in the week. After at least two complete fill ups, AccuFuel will calculate your fuel efficiency and present a graph along the bottom of the home screen.
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Parking Meter: Find Your Parking Spot and Refill Your Meter

Every now and then, I walk out into a parking lot and totally blank on where I left my car. Far more often, I head out to visit a client in the downtown area and find that I have to run out to the meter to put more change in because something came up and the visit ran long. Parking Meter addresses both of these situations and helps you find your car and reminds you to extend your meter if you need to do so.
For parking, the app will record your location using GPS (if available) and allows you to take notes on where you parked (eg, section B3) and take a photo with the built-in camera of your iPhone. When you are done with your trip, you can pull up this info to remind yourself of where the car is located. There’s a link back to the built-in Maps application so you can get directions back to the car if you need them.
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Trapster: Avoid Speed Traps

One of my first tickets ever was on a road trip in college to visit friends in another state. A highway patrol car was parked behind an obstruction right where the speed limit on the interstate dropped from 70 to 55. While I didn’t slow down fast enough, the officer was clearly positioned to take advantage of the speed change and hand out tickets. Nowadays, I’m not much of a speedster but I do drive around town quite a bit and the last thing I can afford is a speeding ticket. There are a couple iPhone apps that try to help you be mindful of safe driving and avoid speed traps and the one that I’ve been using this last week is Trapster.
Trapster uses the built-in location services of the iPhone to display where you are on a map and shows user-reported speed traps, red-light cameras, and speed cameras (the ones that actually issue tickets) that are nearby. Users can improve the system by reporting new locations to trapster.com right through the iPhone app. The advantage of this system is that the updates are much closer to real-time than they would be with a web-based system where users report when they get back to a computer.
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iLeaseMyCar: Car Buying Calculation

There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect car, negotiating a fair price, and then getting totally worked over by the finance manager when you go to get a lease or a loan. To help you compare financing options, iLeaseMyCar provides a simple iPhone loan calculator. There are web calculators, but an iPhone app provides some advantages for use when a network connection isn’t available or is too slow, particularly for iPod touch owners that may not have access to WiFi at a dealer’s showroom.
The app is well designed and attention to detail sets it apart from some of the other choices in the app store. The layout includes 4 buttons across the “dock” at the bottom that let you choose between a loan calculator, lease calculator, advice on negotiating loan options and terms, and program help. The advice is simple, but straightforward, and the help covers all the options available in the program.
Setting the loan details is straightforward. Just tap on the value that you want to adjust and type in the new value. I actually prefer the slider mechanism used in the Auto Loan / Lease Calculator because it gives you immediate feedback on adjusting loan values, but iLeaseMyCar remembers what you’ve entered so you can quit to check email and return to where you were without losing anything.
I’d love to see some additional features like saved loans, a payment schedule with principal and interest, compare two loans, and so on. There’s certainly room for improvement with all of these apps, but my sense is that the good folks at Not Too Shabby Software have a solid base on which to build.
iLeaseMyCar is available in the iTunes App Store for $0.99.
Update: For a limited time, the best deal appears to be the brand-new iLeaseMyCar Pro which has special introductory pricing of $1.99. iLeaseMyCar Pro adds reverse loan and lease calculations to calculate other factors from the payment and also allows you to add taxable and non-taxable fees.

Car Care: Service and Fuel Tracking

In addition to fuel costs, some people are religious in tracking their automobile repairs as well. I keep a file of service receipts, but I hardly ever do any analysis of this information to try and figure out how much I’m spending on repairs or how often. Now that one of my cars is getting a little long in the tooth, I decided I might want to take a closer look and see what it actually takes to keep the old lady of the garage running.
Care Care ($4.99) is an iPhone app that lets you track automobile expenses and fuel costs for multiple vehicles. It essentially takes a fuel cost tracking app and adds a separate entry item for service costs. The setup is fairly straightforward. Select your vehicle from a list of popular makes and models and then you can begin entering your fillups at the gas station along with other service items. When you add a new service entry, you can select from a list of common repairs and services like oil changes, radiator service, etc. or “other” and then enter the odometer reading and cost. You can enter some brief notes as well.
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Shazam: What Song is Playing?

I once spent almost 3 months trying to track down a song that I had heard a few times on the car radio while commuting to and from work back in 2000. I was pulling my hair out because I kept missing the DJ to catch the name of the record. To make things worse, the track was an instrumental so I couldn’t find the lyrics on Google (which had launched just a year or two prior). I managed to catch that it was a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, but it still took me another few weeks to finally identify “S. R. V.” by Eric Johnson, written to honor one of my all-time favorite musicians.
If only I’d had an iPhone. And Shazam.
Shazam is possibly the coolest application that I have seen on the iPhone. If you haven’t seen it yet (how is that possible?), the software is pretty straightforward — it uses the built-in microphone on the iPhone to take a 15 second sample of music. It then sends that sample to the Shazam elves over the Intertubes who toil away night and day to compare that sonic signature to a database of almost 5 million pieces of recorded music. Once a match has been found, Shazam shows you the artist and track information and provides links to purchase the song in the iTunes music store or watch a video on YouTube. It saves a list of songs you have “tagged” with Shazam and lets you email the links. Frankly, it’s amazing to watch as it works and is one of the first apps I show to friends who haven’t played with an iPhone.
Shazam does a pretty good job of picking up background music so it works great to pick up songs playing on the car radio. If you’ve ever had that experience of wanting to know the title of a song you just missed, run, don’t walk, to download Shazam from the iTunes App Store.

Carticipate: Carpooling With Your iPhone (Almost)

As we pointed out last month, Carticipate offers some simple hope for those that are looking for ways to reduce their car usage and spending on gasoline. The promise of Carticipate is to bring people together that are looking for ridesharing by helping you identify other riders or drivers that are headed to the same destination from your local area. The problem is that 2 months after release, there still don’t appear to be any people posting potential rides in the community.
There aren’t any other iPhone apps for ridesharing at the time this review was written, but there are some good web sites like PickupPal, ZimRide, 511.org, Ridester, vpsiinc.com, and others that work quite well from an iPhone. From the comments on our earlier article, it looks like PickupPal is working on an iPhone app, so we’ll keep you posted as options develop.
Carticipate is a free download in the iTunes App Store, so it won’t cost anything to try and find ridesharing opportunities in your area. Your might fare a lot better if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area (where iPhone concentration and eco-awareness are higher). While the community is being developed, take a look at the web sites listed above to share rides. We hope to be able to report on more options for iPhone users in the near future.

iGasUp: Find Cheap Gas

While the price of gas has been dropping from $4.00 down towards $3.00 in recent weeks, I still pay attention to which stations offer lower prices when I go to fillup. I’ve found differences of up to 20 cents per gallon between stations that are just within a mile or two of my home in Colorado. That savings can add up quickly if you’re careful about where you buy gas.
There are a couple of iPhone apps that attempt to help you find the cheapest gas, wherever you happen to be, by combining pricing information from the internet with the location services of the iPhone. I looked at GasBag, iGasUp, and Where to see which one would help me find cheap gas, particularly when I was in an unfamiliar part of town. In my usage for a week, I found iGasUp to have the most complete and the most current pricing info, even if it was a little glitchy in map mode. It had more stations in my area (Denver, CO) and the pricing was consistently more accurate than the other apps.
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MileBug: Expense Reporting for Mileage

For my day job, I do a fair amount of driving around town. For tax purposes, it’s really important that I track the miles I drive for work, and to do it right I need to record the odometer readings. In the past, I’ve used a simple written log book, but this last week I’ve been using a few trip log apps for the iPhone to see if I could make this whole process easier for myself.
The trip log that I liked best is MileBug from Izatt International. This is a nice little app that does a good job of making the process relatively painless. The biggest obstacle to using any app like this is the time required to enter the details for your trip. The simplest measure would be, “Does it take more or less time than it would to write it down on paper?” I think MileBug passes this critical litmus test.
You can track odometer readings for the start and end of each trip, and you can do so for multiple vehicles. MileBug lets you track trips by Business, Destination, and Purpose and set presets for each of those items for quick entry. You can setup reimbursement rates for each business if you need to track rates for the standard federal tax deduction for some trips and a corporate reimbursement that may have another rate for other trips. MileBug will automatically start the next trip from the last known odometer reading to save a little time. I appreciate how the odometer dials roll over, instead of just running from 0 to 9 like in some other apps. It makes it a little simpler to update your mileage when you roll past 9 on one or more of the digits.
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Grocery IQ: Grocery Shopping Just Got Easier

Grocery IQ by Free State Labs was recently Apple’s App Store Pick of the Week, and for good reason.

While there are other grocery list apps, and plenty of generic task list apps, that can help you remember to bring home milk and eggs, Grocery IQ has a unique method of helping you select from an internal database of over 130,000 items including brand names that you can find in US grocery stores. The program is smart enough to filter the list as you type, and it will take partial words (think “cheer honey” for Cheerios Honey Nut Cereal) to help you find items even faster. You can add items to your shopping list and Grocery IQ will present you with the appropriate “size” options. It knows my favorite ice cream comes in pint containers, and that the dog food comes in 20lb or 40lb bags so I can be specific when planning my purchases.
Using the app while shopping is easy too. Grocery IQ includes the aisle information in its database to help you organize your circuit through the store. If an item is located somewhere else in your particular store, you can customize the aisle (and even the aisle names) to help you stay focused on your intended prey while you are traversing the linoleum-tiled halls of the store. When you finish, the app will save your items to its history. You can then use the history and the favorites to quickly build a shopping list for your next trip.
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