In-car apps more than just maps
Smartphone applications enhance user experiences
Now that Xu Weilun has discovered navigation apps, he has a hard time imagining how he ever lived without them, said Xu, an editor from Beijing’s Legal Daily newspaper.
When he took wedding pictures in the coastal Hainan province this August, he and his wife rented a car from a local dealership and relied on navigation apps for every trip.
“The suggested routes given by an navigation app called ‘Gaode’ are convenient and contain few errors, even in a place I’ve never been to before,” Xu said.
“It only made one mistake that nearly led us to the sea,” he recalled.
Xu has been closely watching automotive apps that can make life easier.
Some apps are for inquiring to see if one has violated traffic rules while others calculate fuel consumption or aid in filing insurance claims.
As growing numbers of Chinese people get behind the wheel, automotive apps are exploding in popularity.
A search for “automotive apps” on iPhone’s app store reveals more than 100 results.
These apps can be classified into four categories.
The first is for car use and maintenance like navigation, traffic rule violations, and fuel consumption record as well as car insurance calculation.
For example, an app named “car butler” enables users make a record of every refuel and the price, and then it can automatically figure out the
I use apps to look for car model statistics, check prices and watch for new arrivals. I also use navigation apps, but not often. Sometimes I’d question their security. I’m afraid my privacy will not get protected.” LIANG YU BIOTECHNOLOGY ENGINEER
car’s average fuel consumption.
Apps from carmakers
Some carmakers also provide their own custom apps for car use and maintenance.
For instance, MyBMWClub is a free app that BMW offers to car owners.
It offers users information about after- sales services, including car maintenance tips and prices, emergency roadside assistance and dealer information.
Analysts said that the biggest function of these apps is saving money for users.
First, they can save expenditures for purchasing some professional products like global-positioning navigators.
Second, it can prevent users from being cheated by dealers.
Some of the automotive apps are connected to onboard software by carmakers before these vehicles are delivered to buyers.
Xu said his newly bought Roewe 350 produced by SAIC Group is like a moving technology box.
“I really like the free navigation app called inkaNet because it can take real-time road situations into consideration in route planning and make adjustments accordingly.”
“I remember one time that the navigation system suddenly asked me to head for a smaller road.
“I was so surprised because I was smoothly driving on the main road.
“Later I found out that there was congestion on the main road in the front, while traffic on the smaller road was smooth all the way.
“The experience was great,” Xu said. He said the inkaNet is also connected to the 3G networks of major telecom operators.
“In this way, the onboard navigator can be connected to my WeChat — a social networking software — on my smart phone. Then the navigator becomes a friend on my WeChat address book.
“I can send any destination request through WeChat to the navigator and it will plan route when my wife is driving and I’m not in the car. I can also use my WeChat to check the car’s detailed position.”
Besides SAIC, several brands like BMW and MINI, BYD, Audi, Chevrolet also have similar apps and services.
The third kind of apps is to provide car model information and other latest market information to potential buyers.
An app called Autohome displays selected articles and high-definition pictures published on the namesake automotive portal.
Users can also subscribe to information about cars they are interested in.
Biotechnology engineer Liang Yu, who works in Shanghai, said he often uses the Autohome app. “I use apps to look for car model statistics, check prices and watch for new arrivals. I also use navigation apps, but not often. Sometimes I’d question their security. I’m afraid my privacy will not get protected,” he said.
The fourth type of automotive app is for entertainment, like a racing game app named “Realracing.”
Xu said it has a more cheerful speed compared with similar game software on computers.
“I hope there will be more mature apps that can improve the ‘dialog’ between cars and humans.
“Maybe developers can integrate iPad into the onboard system, like what if the LED screen were just an iPad? ”
Visitors experience Gaode’s navigation app at an Internet show in Beijing. A diversity of automobile apps are growing in China, the world’s largest car market.