An Android OS phone, such as my Motorola Droid, has a built-in GPS. By tapping into the GPS and do some calculations, one can derive all sorts of interesting statistics about one's motion. In fact, professional car test done by car magazines often use RaceLogic's box for performance measurements. However, that box is several hundred dollars. Can an app on your Android phone do similar things?
We will review the following apps: Speed, SpeedView, AndroHUD, Digital Speed, gPC Lite, Race Ace, SpeedProof, and Speedometer.
The review will point out what each of these apps can do in addition to just speed, as in a speedometer. Some can do G-meter, automatic lap timing, data logging, mapping, and such. So, which one is good, and which one is junk?
While the apps mentioned here have all been tested, their accuracy is not guaranteed or calibrated. Do not expect to use this to defend yourself in court against speeding tickets and such. Also, because they "derive" their measurements from multiple readings of the GPS coordinates over time, there is a "lag" between your speed change and the display. Professional GPS performance meters measure stuff as fast as it can, often several times a second. The apps can't go that fast. Keep that in mind.
GPS signals come from satellites out in space, so for best results, these programs should be used outdoors, in wide-open areas, so your Android phone can get optimum reception of the GPS signals. Accuracy of the signals is much worse in urban areas, and downright useless in tunnels, garages, and so on.
Speed gives you a variety of fonts to choose from, and available HUD mode so you can place it on the dash facing up, and because the image is mirrored you can read it as a number off the windshield as a "projection" Head-Up Display (HUD). However, it is digital only, no analog available. Still, with over a dozen different colors and fonts to choose from, Speed is fun to play with. However, it is prone to GPS glitches, such as sudden reading spikes at low velocity. Landscape mode only.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
SpeedView, in contrast, is a more serious application. It offers one analog gauge with digital reading in the middle. it also has a speed-graph below the main gauge. It also comes with many settings to filter out the spikes, as well as ensure more accurate readings, like "ignore readings when accuracy is worse than 200-meters". Furthermore, it also lets one set a speed warning like "do not go over 65 mph". The device will sound alarm (if set so). Unfortunately, the log was not written to disc, and path was not recorded either. Have both portrait and landscape mode.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
While it says HUD, it is more of a digital artificial horizon, as it shows digital heading with "ribbon" (similar to that of a real HUD in a jetfighter), plus altitude (positive and negative changes), as well as speed and g-forces. However, it is display only, no logging. It also does not show the actual view through the camera. It does offer a speed warning. Landscape mode operation only.
Rating: 7 out of 10
A simple digital speedometer with optional compass display (two letters only, N,S, E, W and combinations) it only works in portrait mode.
Rating: 5 out of 10
An analog speedometer with a g-meter, it only works in portrait mode, and it is very prone to GPS glitches. It is so twitchy, while the phone is sitting still, the speedometer still jumps up and down. Multiple calibrations did not help.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Meant for track days where you take a car out to see what you can do, this has a digital speedometer with max speed record, and the 360-degree G-meter graph you sometimes see in car review magazines. It also records full laps as data record (sometimes seen on Motor Trend lap tests). Very impressive app, but a very lousy interface. It is essentially a data logger.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The intent of the program is to provide a log of tamper-resistant data that *may* help you defeat speeding tickets. I have not looked at the data on how tamper-resistant it is. In any case, it will be pretty hard to convince the judge or commissioner to accept the data without giving the other side, namely the lawyer or the cop a chance to examine the data, at least in the US. Good intent, but don't know about the execution.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Interesting app that is more than a car speedo, it claims to work for almost any outdoor sports, including cycling, kayaking, running, motorsports, and so on. It will do a full record of your "lap" or activity, and measure a lot of things, like distance, pace, and so on. The pro version claims to let you upload your track records, call "live track" to their website and embed into Twitter, Facebook, and so on. However, this wasn't tested. The lite version tested does record track, and more. However, the interface is a bit dated.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Overall, SpeedView seems to be the best general purpose speedometer for vehicle use, but it does not log. It has the best GPS spike and GPS drift filter to ensure good accuracy.
If you need a little race day help, try Race Ace or Speedometer (pro version?).
rubb on January 26, 2012:
Yes, these apps are good but it's just a speedometer or G-meter. I found another one which also shows average daily G-forces. It seems to be very inetersting.
Mauro on September 06, 2011:
Anoter intersting app is speed logger
with a screen fit to be used in the car, maps with different colors for the speed, sharing of the maps in real time
kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on April 14, 2011:
It's basically a hyper-accurate GPS. By updating a dozen times a second with a better antenna (you may have seen it used on Top Gear, where the three went through Germany). By recording motion with hyperaccuracy, it can derive all sorts of data such as acceleration curve, quarter-mile, and so on.
meshantha on April 13, 2011:
can you explain a bit about RaceLogic's box ?
kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on December 19, 2010:
@Yaseen - while your explanation is appreciated, it's not really related to this hub. This hub is about the apps, not how GPS works.
yaseen*5 on December 18, 2010:
GPS enabled devices are able to determine their location because of a mathematical process called trilateration.
What trilateration does is it takes the known distance from three different object and finds out where you are in relation to those objects.
An example is always helpful. In the photo to the right we see an example of trilateration in action. You are somewhere between Fresno, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas - but you don't exactly know where you are. You find a nice old man and ask him where you are. He doesn't know either, but tells you that you are 300 miles from Los Angeles. You pull out your map and draw a circle on your map that has a radius of 300 miles. This is helpful, but you still don't know exactly where you are.
So you find an old woman and ask her if she knows where you are. She, unfortunately, does not - but she does know that you are 250 miles from Fresno. You now draw a circle around Fresno that has a radius of 250 miles. This is looking good because on your map the circle around Fresno and the circle around Los Angeles intersect at two different points. You still don't know where you are, but you have a really good idea.
Now you find a third person and ask them if they know where you are. They do not, but can tell you that you are 100 miles from Las Vegas. You again draw a circle, this time around Vegas and it is 100 miles in diameter. Now you have a single point on your map where all three circles intersect. This is where you are.
This is exactly the way that trilateration works in GPS enable cell phones. It takes the know distance from three or more objects (satellites or cell phone towers) and finds out exactly where the phone is at any given moment.