Tuesday, April 17, 2012

App Review: BikeTrip for iPhone

I've decided to take a look at some of the apps that are available on the iPhone for riders, so tonight I gave BikeTrip a test run.

BikeTrip is free for the first 20 trips, after which time you need to buy the full app via in-app purchase.  At the moment it's priced at US$1.99 which, based on my experience on the ride home this evening, I will be spending without any hesitation.

First up, this application is battery hungry.  In fact it isn't the app itself, but rather the GPS chip that chews the battery, and if you want to poll the GPS system often for accurate readings, you're going to pay for it in juice.  I consumed approximately 30% battery in the one hour trip home.  I think that using this app on a long trip requires the ability to plug your iPhone into your bike to charge as you ride, but I anticipate that any app in this genre is going to have this same limitation.  I'm looking at a waterproof case for the phone with a mount and charging kit on eBay for about $100, and I'll review it if/when I get my hands on it.

 Without a doubt, BikeTrip is all about the bends.  Yes it tracks your distance, elevation and ascent, but what we really want to know is how fast / how far over did we go around that corner?  And BikeTrip comes to the party, albeit in a slightly cumbersome way.

In addition to showing you the map plot of your route, it lists all the bends that it detected in your trip, along with the lean angle, speed, and turn duration in degrees. 

From this list of bends (which can be sorted either in chronological or lean angle order) you can then click through to see that bend on the map.

For this test run I "mounted" the iPhone in the pocket on top of my tank bag.  Some of the apps I have previously looked at wanted to be calibrated in terms of the direction of movement it should expect, presumably due to a heavy reliance on the device's accelerometers to determine or measure lean angles.  There was none of that with BikeTrip, it just appeared to work.  Whether that is because the accelerometer information has improved (I think the last time I was using an iPhone 3, I am now on a 4) or whether it is because BikeTrip is more heavily reliant upon the information from the GPS and less on the accelerometers I don't know, but it was certainly nice to just slip it into the little pocket on top the tank bag and watch it do its thing, and come out with angles that on the face of it seem pretty reasonable.  Certainly the tightest leans that it recorded (31 and 27 degrees respectively) correspond to 2 of my favourite corners.  I'll review this data when I have the phone mounted to the bike just to confirm it is consistent.

Two features I would like would be the ability to export the data, and the ability to step through the bends in the map view rather than selecting the corner from the list to see it on the map, then click back to select the next one.  It would be ideal to have a previous & next button available to walk through the bends, so to speak.  But for the current price of US$1.99 I am delighted with what this app delivers, and I'll be very surprised if any of the other contenders convince me not to pony up for this little gem.


  1. OK, that does look pretty cool - I agree, being able to click from Map to data (rather than only the reverse) would be awesome, but still a pretty funky little app. :)

    If only I had an iPhone ;)

  2. I'm wondering just how it works in terms of the locational stuff - would that just be working on the 3G phone or would it be using your internet data allowance? I'm assuming probably just the 3G connection?

    My guess for the lean angle is that it is using the accelerometers, and that they have improved - I can't see how else it would be getting that data.

    Wonder if I could get it for iPad? And if it would work for a wireless only version anyway... or how hard it would be to swap from my current LG Doze phone to an iPhone. ;)

  3. I've done a little more research on this one - www.biketripapp.com - it works purely on the GPS signal, no reliance on 3G or accelerometers. As such it isn't measuring the lean angle so much as it is calculating the (presumably mean) lean angle based upon the centrifugal force generated by the degree of the turn taken at the measured speed, and determining what offset of the centre of gravity is required to balance that force.

    You can certainly get the app for the iPad; I'll test it out for you and let you know. As for changing to an iPhone, that probably depends on how long you have left in your contract I'm afraid. I took a look at iPhone 4 sales on ebay, and they're not cheap. Most of the apps I'm looking at don't recommend running them on the iPhone 3 due to the inferiority of the GPS chip in that model phone.

  4. My iPad doesn't cut it though (I tried to download and without the 3G it wouldn't let me). Must get me an iPhone I guess. ;)

  5. No it wouldn't install on my iPad either. So perhaps either get yourself an iPhone, or address the gap in the windows phone market and write one yourself... though that may be a significant challenge due to the lack of standardised hardware. If the GPS API is simple and well defined you could still have a crack at it, but unless I am greatly underestimating the market share of windows phones, I doubt you would recoup enough in sales to justify the effort involved.