Two recent studies show that the iPhone continues to be more popular than Android handsets. The Nielsen Company says there are three times as many iPhone users as Android users, while Gartner Research says the difference is more like five percent. The exact number may not matter, as to many users, Google's Android is equal to the iPhone in terms of features, popularity and especially the buzz factor.
Because of Apple's early market dominance, iPhone users have many great choices when it comes to car-specific apps. But it turns out there are now plenty of Android apps to pick from too, quite a few that will have you smudging your HTC touchscreen daily.
1. Car Finder AR
This app is a lot like the many GPS-based tools that store the location of your parked car, but it has a few stand out features plus nearly every user comment ranks it high, with notes like "works flawlessly" and "very useful." Car Finder AR automatically stores your location upon Bluetooth disconnect, includes a parking meter timer, parking history and a "send to other phone" feature in case you're down on battery power.
2. Car Finance Professional
A must have for anyone in the market for a new or used car, this app turns your phone into a pocket financial calculator, complete with graphs and charts. It's all designed to help you compare leasing versus buying and calculate your loan or lease payment. Those comparing a hybrid to a less expensive non-hybrid can even calculate the break-even based on the car's price, fuel prices and miles driven. Here's a little hint, it's a lot longer than you think.
A drag racing and dynamometer app that calculates quarter-mile times, it also includes a g-force meter and custom speedometer. Plus it can create Excel spreadsheets and has a data replay feature with the ability to send time slips right to your Facebook account. Every user who rated this app on the Android Marketplace gave it as least three out of five stars.
This one is a must-have for frequent fliers. FlightTrack gives you live flight status and gate information, live flight tracker maps and you can import data from the TripIt travel planning website.
5. Gas Buddy
It does just what it says, helping you find the nearest and cheapest gas in the U.S. and Canada. It also works as a kind of game too. Users report their local gas prices and when they do, they are automatically entered into a drawing where the prize is, well, free gas.
6. Maps and Car Panel
These both come with Android v2.0 or higher. Car Panel allows quick and easy access to recent calls, Google search, navigation, voice commands, maps and saved favorite places. Car Panel essentially combines the navigation and maps function into a more car friendly application similar to how an information, communication and entertainment screen would work in a factory installed nav system. Purchase and aftermarket mount for your Android Smartphone and either one of these features mean you just upgraded your handheld phone to an in-car portable navigation device. Navigate "from current location" is especially helpful when you're just plain lost.
7. Rest Area Map
This is about as simple as they come, plotting rest areas along your U.S. Interstate route or finding rest area near your current location. Anyone with a road trip habit of drinking 32oz bottles of Mountain Dew or those with small children will find this invaluable.
8. Ride Hopper
This one is more useful once you reach your holiday road trip destination – if that happens to be an amusement park. Ride Hopper shows you user-submitted wait times for over 4,300 rides at 260 or more theme parks, including Busch Gardens, Disneyland, Disney World, Epcot, Legoland, Six Flags, Sea World, Universal Studios and more. Most users rank it 3 or 4 out of 5 stars.
9. My Tracks
This is the perfect tool for hikers or off-roaders, using GPS to record where you've been and showing time traveled, speed, distance and elevation. Once a trail is recorded you can share it in Google's My Maps or Google Spreadsheets. Another similar app, Maverick, allows you to take a photo of your favorite campsite or other location and have the map coordinates automatically saved to your phone.
The speed-trap database has a self-proclaimed five million users, all inputting data about speed trap locations. As you approach a known speed trap, red light camera or speed camera, you get a spoken word warning. Join the community of users and avoid getting ticketed.