I'm careening down a dark desert highway (cool wind in my hair...). There's nothing ahead of me but a lined ebony ribbon that stretches on into infinity. My car is the latest model of some very exclusive, very expensive maker.
The driver's seat cradles my body so as to keep fatigue at bay. The instrument panel, normally viewed around and through the steering wheel, is spartan, a small handful of status lights glow green. The console is equally bare save a single multipurpose display which currently shows information about the Eagles song that's playing ("Take it to the Limit").
All pertinent information, normally the stuff of dials and gauges, is displayed in front me, hanging in mid air unobtrusively just over the dashboard. My ticket worthy speed, engine RPMs, coolant temperature all update constantly in muted, translucent characters. An arrow points out the route I should be taking. A collision detector flashes briefly as I zoom pass a deer grazing along the side of the road.
I push the accelerator a wee bit more, the engine growls at my restraint as it responds and the ghostly numbers in front of me increase. I can't help but smile. Broadly. Flying cars? Heck, I'm sitting in one.
Then I wake up.
The reality is that my car, while very reliable, is old, relatively inexpensive, and hardly dream worthy. And it's paid for, so getting a new vehicle is pretty far down on my list of stuff I need to buy. And whatever I do buy will likely no be very exclusive or very expensive, so it likely won't have that cool heads-up display (HUD).
Still, this is 2013! We've got more computing power in our pockets then the entire world possessed just 100 years ago. Surely there must be something available that can bring some of my dream to life.
Well, there is.
Garmin, the navigation folks, recently released a HUD device that pairs via Bluetooth with your iPhone and the Garmin or Navigon app to give you navigation info on your current car's windshield. It looks pretty interesting too. So now, even if you drive an oil burning rust bucket you can still find your way and be cool doing it.
The Garmin device cost money. Not a lot, but this is Free on iTunes, the emphasis is on free. Is there something we can use to give us a HUD just using what we already have?
a HUD can make even a junker like mine look cool
Of course, but before I get to that I should warn you that messing with your phone while driving can be dangerous. If you're going to use the apps I'm about the describe set them up before you start driving and pull over if you need to make adjustments. It would be silly to crunch your fender, or worse, because you were futzing with a free app on your phone.
So let's get to it.
Speedometer + HUD [7.3 MB, all iOS devices iOS 4.3 or later, Bonobo Pte Ltd]
Options are few, but it's all you need in SpeedHUD
If all you want is the coolness of seeing your current speed displayed on your windshield then all you need is SpeedHUD.
It's a very basic app with two screens. The first screen lets you set the speed unit (kph or mph) and a speed warning, which alerts you if you go over the set limit. Handy if you have a lead foot.
The other screen simply shows a digital readout of your speed in a mirror image. When you put your phone on the dashboard the reflected numbers appear in front of you and it can look pretty neat.
Just the speed in SpeedHUD
A few things to remember however. Using this or any app that relies of reflecting info off your windshield will have very limited use during the day. The sun is just too bright. Also, leaving your iPhone in direct sunlight for long periods of time is just not a good idea. The device will likely overheat. You can switch off the HUD mode and just view your speed directly from the display, making the app equally useful during the day.
At night, however, SpeedHUD works great. You might want to find a way to keep your phone from sliding around as you make turns and to keep it close in case you need it for something else.
Speedometer - Free [7.3 MB, all iOS devices iOS 5.1 or later, Stanislav Dvoychenko]
Lots of info in Speedometer Free
If you want something that can give you a bit more info then take a look at Speedometer. Not only does the app show your speed, but gives you trip info as well, like distance travelled, average speed, even altitude.
In the HUD mode, however, it will only show your current speed, and that's a good thing. All that other info, while nice to view when your trip is done, is superfluous while driving.
The HUD just shows speed
The app lets you set speed limit alerts depending on your general location (urban, highway, so on), and you can control your music right from the app, no need to switch apps to switch tunes.
As with SpeedHUD, you can't use the HUD during the day, but you can still use the app normally. The speed indicator has nice, large characters that make it easy to see at a glance.
For the price Speedometer is a nice app to try out.
That's a wrap for this week.
If you can't get enough of Angry Birds or Star Wars then The Force is with you this week because Angry Birds: Star Wars is this week's Free App of the Week. Grab it.