07
Aug
unnamed

Driving is okay, but it's a little mundane, don't you think? If you need more fun during your road trips, Volkswagen is all over that with its new SmileDrive app. This app follows your trips and turns them into interactive online adventures. It doesn't even require a Volkswagen – just a car with Bluetooth.

The app uses Google+ logins to connect the people in the car, then creates a map for each trip. You earn points for driving, which eventually translate into stickers (yay). If you pass another car using SmileDrive, you get a "punch" on the map. I don't think that's likely to happen much, but it's still kind of fun. At the end, you get a neat summary of the trip which can be saved or shared online. For longer trips, you can name them and add images and messages that can be kept with the map to checkout again later. You know, memories and stuff.

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In addition to all the gamification stuff, the app has a practical feature – a car locator. Just fire up the app and it directs you to the place where the Bluetooth was shut off. It's free, so check it out.

[Thanks, Jean-François Simard]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • DoubleP90

    The app is not available for my Nexus 7 and Galaxy nexus devices :(
    Do you know why? is it geo restricted?

    • Leonardo Baez

      yes. only for usa.

  • PamelaLibrarian

    For the car locator alone, I'd pay for this app! ;)

  • MR.X

    Hm. I'm from Germany (reason enough that it has to work :P) and my Nexus 7 and Nexus 4 aren't working.

    • Vardan Nazaretyan

      So it's US only, but it's made by VW? That sucks...

      • Niels

        It's made by Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. - perhaps that's why? Or mayby they don't trust Google's data outside the US? Bugs me still, would have loved this!

        • Vardan Nazaretyan

          True dat, but anyway, if they make this, the first region to release should have been Europe(because VW is German company). Tired of "U.S.=World" policy of many app devs and even phone manufacturers.

  • http://www.droid-den.com Rachid

    US only? :(

  • http://thedangerbrain.com/ Alfonso Surroca

    Got this app recently, and I love the concept, basically something like GetGlue for driving, with a little bit of Nintendo's StreetPass thrown in.

    Surprisingly, route logging accuracy seems to blow away Google's own Latitude log, which is hilariously inaccurate a lot of the time. It's also not a battery hog. Should we assume it's using 4.3's new/better GPS polling method?

    • Thomas’

      The new Location manager is not part of 4.3, but rather of the Play Services.

  • PhoenixPath

    Anyone know what it needs the BT for (other than, "hey, this is where it turned off")? ...and would a BT OBD reader work in lieu of the actual vehicle having BT

    • Jean-François Simard

      It actually doesn't need Bluetooth. Bluetooth is just needed to auto-enable/auto-start the app to record. You can set it without Bluetooth and start/stop it manually.

      • Jose Arce

        So, can the Bluetooth functionality be used with a Bluetooth ready/enabled stereo or speakers? I drive a fairly old car and the only Bluetooth around is the stereo's :D

        • Jean-François Simard

          I would think so. The app, from my understanding, will start once your phone connects to a specific Bluetooth device, no matter what it is

  • bL4Ck

    >not available in your country
    this is getting seriously frustrating, stop it.

  • Razo_E

    Lulz. This is like the Nintendo 3DS's Streetpass function. As you pass others with a 3DS, it sends your "mii" (cartoon avatar) and you can play games with your new guests' mii. It also has a built-in pedometer that earns you a coin for every 100 steps you take and allows you to purchase items on certain games and other fun stuff. VW just did this with cars. A novel idea that's fun in practice.

  • Matt

    Though I'm not sure how well it will work in other countries (especially the social features), here's a link to the APK. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15515592/com.vw.android.apps.smiledrive-1.apk

    • someone755

      Thank you SO much. Don't care about the social features, I just like that smiley icon :3

    • Leonardo Baez

      thanks dude

    • Cristopher BG

      Thanks!!

  • Thomas Arroyo

    Wow, seems like FourSquare on roids to me!

  • Freak4Dell

    If driving is mundane, you're doing it wrong.

  • Rob

    Seriously? How about Audi and VW create an app to remote start your car, lock/unlock your doors, close/vent your windows - useful stuff like that? In other words, the kind of features that even the new GM is offering! (oO)

  • someone755

    A happy sign! Hooray! Imma download this, looks awesome.
    Just a question, though, does it need a data connection all the time? Or only GPS?

  • Matthew Fry

    I get it! It gives you punches when you see others because it's an app for Volkswagen Bugs! (context: punch buggy is a road trip game where you punch the other participant when you see a Volkswagen Bug out the window).

  • The Don

    Virtual stickers are lame. Get a real one http://www.stickermafia.com

  • Phantom

    Can someone else share the apk file please?
    Matts post is not working anymore!

  • Jonathan Morales

    I didn't know about the Car Locator feature. It only makes sense that it was developed into the VW Smile Drive application since the position of the car is noted throughout their mapping and when you are on a Smile Drive Trip with friends. Innovative to say the least, should be interesting to see what other auto-makers develop something similar. Check out our blog on the VW Smile Drive here: http://www.douglasvw.com/2013/08/08/volkswagen-smile-drive-app