Business Management

Sygic's Speedometer app needs more leadfoots to build its speed-trap data

Despite its name, Sygic's new Speedometer app does not simply replicate a feature cars have had built-in for more than 100 years (although it does do that). It's a free, elegantly-designed utility (iOS and Android) that works as a speedometer, trip logger, and crowd-sourced police and incident reporter. In other words, it's the perfect app for a road warrior such as myself--someone who frequently goes on long trips and who, ahem, occasionally slips over the speed limit.

Speedometer not only tracks your speed during a trip (it automatically logs all trips when you open the app), it also allows you to set speed alerts that warn you when you exceed a certain speed. But some of its features work best with crowd-sourced data, though the app doesn't have enough of a crowd yet to make it as useful as you'd like it to be.

As a speedometer, Speedometer is pretty--though not vital. The app uses your smartphone's GPS to determine your current speed, and it's fairly accurate, especially during longer trips. I used the app in several different situations, including a short jaunt on the freeway, and a much longer road trip to Los Angeles. The app overestimated my speed by about five miles during the shorter trips. During my L.A. road trip, however, it matched my vehicle's speedometer (give or take a mile) after a few minutes.

The app's main screen features its namesake speedometer, as well as two medium-sized buttons for one-touch reporting of a police sighting or traffic incident (such as an accident). Speedometer's priority is ease-of-use--always a good policy for an app meant to be used inside a vehicle--so tapping one of the buttons automatically reports the sighting or incident to Sygic's crowd-sourced network.

Unfortunately, Sygic's network isn't exactly robust--certainly not compared to the popular Trapster app. In my six-hour drive to Los Angeles, I saw only two warnings pop up from Sygic, and both were regarding fixed traffic stops (such as red light cameras), which Sygic has pre-loaded into its offline database. In other words, there were either no other Sygic Speedometer users on my route, or none of them were reporting (and I did see several speed traps).

The trip logs are perhaps the most useful feature in this app, at this moment, especially for people who need to log miles for business. The app automatically starts a trip log when you open it (and are moving), and closes it when you close it (or stop moving). Each trip log offers up your miles traveled and time spent driving, as well as your maximum speed and your average speed. There doesn't appear to be a way to export your trip logs or label them, however, so as a trip logger its usage is still a bit limited.

Open up Speedometer's options menu, and you'll see what other features the app has. You can view your trip logs, change your units from metric kilometers to miles, and check out nearby traffic warnings.

What the Speedometer app is missing is something truly unique--such as crowd-sourced speed, so you can determine how fast the traffic around you is driving. But we'd probably need to pay for a feature like that.

Sygic's clearly working on its data problem. The company just posted a new, 2.0 Android version of this app. According to Sygic, it includes real speed limits and mobile speed-camera warnings, and the warnings now take driving direction into account. The database has also added or updated "thousands" of speed cameras, per Sygic. I tried it, and the extra data is nice, but speed-camera warnings still aren't as useful as real-time data on speed traps--since most people will know where speed cameras are, especially if they're used to driving in the area. 

Sygic's Speedometer app is gorgeous, with minimalist, elegant styling and an uncluttered overall look, and it works well. Unfortunately, its usability is limited: Its police/incident reporting feature needs a more robust crowd-sourced network to be useful, while its trip logger is interesting but still inadequate for a true road warrior. Still, it's a start. If Speedometer accumulates enough users, it could certainly grow up to be something awesome.


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