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I drive a 2003 Ford Ranger. It's reliable, sturdy, and I'll keep it till the wheels fall off, but it is not what you'd call "advanced." The digital displays and integrated electronics of today's cars and trucks put mine to shame, even with a decent aftermarket stereo. Dash, the first app from the eponymous developer and startup, aims to change that. This free app connects to an onboard diagnostics tool (OBD, compatible with most cars from the 90s onward) via Bluetooth to report statistics and other information in real time.

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Dash is a fancy dashboard that happens to sit on your phone instead of behind your steering wheel. Once it's connected to the OBD and set up, Dash can display basic route and mileage information while you're driving and where the cheapest gas in the area can be bought. Big deal - Google Maps will do most of that. But Dash gets really useful when things start going wrong, because it uses the same diagnostic sensors as most mechanics to get a basic look at what's happening inside your car. Translation: vehicular dunces like me can get a better idea of why the "check engine" light has gone off, and how much the repair will probably cost.

Dash isn't the first Android app to connect with the OBD system, but it is the most user-friendly, incorporating mileage and safety information into a simple score. The higher your score, the better and more efficient your driving. Naturally Dash connects to Facebook so you can "compete" with friends and family, but a more useful tool is the crash detector. If Dash determines that your car has been in an accident, it can automatically text someone an alert. A more everyday tool lets you see where you parked your car without having to remember to set an app.

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Dash should work with any OBD tool that uses Bluetooth. If you don't have one, the company lists two recommended models on its website, one bare-bones version for $10 and a more deluxe option for $70. At the moment Dash is getting a bit of a bad rap on the Play Store, almost exclusively from Europeans who are upset that their cars aren't listed and the display is only in imperial units. (For the record, the app description says that it's in beta and only intended for US users and vehicles for the time being.) The app and service are free, and it works with Android 4.0 or later.

via TechCrunch

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Ben Enos

    I'm so sick of seeing bad reviews of apps by stupid people who either don't know how to read an app description or don't know how to work thier phones. I see it all the time where people download stuff that clearly says you need to be rooted, or need a 3rd party launcher to use, and then give it one star because the app won't work with thier stock device.
    There's far too many morons in this world.

    • dNj

      Worse are the people who give 1 star to brand new games that don't support third party controllers.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Actually they SHOULD do that immediately (unless it's some Clash of Clans clone) by default, it's 2014 already

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    • Leonardo Farage Freitas

      There are also those that do a 1-star review saying: "Downloading, will be back to update", and surely they never come back..

      WTF.. you should rate after you have downloaded and used.. god!

    • Freak4Dell

      I would Google would just delete reviews like this. Granted, the devs also could have prevented a lot of this by simply not offering the app in any of these other countries.

    • Djasonw

      I agree completely. When I read reviews and see that the reviewer is an idiot, I immediately discount that review. What's really scary is how many idiots that are out there!!

    • ItsmeYogi

      Dude not even is technology smart. most people know what their friends and other people around them know. they never take the time to learn.

  • Jillxz

    Have to use Bluetooth all the time and you better keep a charger handy as you will charge your phone a lot.

    • Yusuf Ibrahim

      Bluetooth is no where near a battery drainer as much as you think it is. I have my bluetooth on all the time, and the difference is very much negligible.

    • KingofPing

      You must have a really horrible phone. Get a new one. BT should not drain battery like you are claiming it does...

      • Jillxz

        no , I have a great phone. I have the Verizon LG G2 and I never use my Bluetooth except for music. I said what I did because I have read where Bluetooth will drain the battery and one of the tips on saving a phone's battery drain is to turn OFF the Bluetooth. It

        • KingofPing

          I bet you've read about leprechauns too. I'm betting you don't actually believe they exist though. :)

          Use that same caution of belief when reading any "Android tips" in the future. Better yet, use it when reading anything.

          • Jillxz

            Actually I yes I do. :)

          • KingofPing


            That's ok. Do they happen to ride Unicorns?

          • Jillxz

            No , not to my knowledge as I have not seen that.

          • KingofPing

            ...but have you *read* it anywhere?? :-P

          • Jillxz

            My last reply to anyone as you all are picking at me. I made a statement initially about Bluetooth and you all disagreed and have been making these silly childish post. I am done with you.

          • KingofPing

            I was just playing along with ya, man. You replied to the leprechaun bit with what appeared to me to be humor. Didn't realize you were still angsty about being wrong. Sorry, man. Happens to everyone. Hope ya have a better day.

          • Jillxz

            Listen I do apologise. I guess I am a little antsy because first I am a female and second I am not a geek or technical person , although I enjoy all these technical sites. I do try to keep up with all the latest in smartphones and tablets and love reading the comment sections . Adding my opinions/thoughts on various matters sometimes . And to add to the leprechaun post it was humorous. Please forgive meas I have not yet found my post of gold.

          • KingofPing

            Nothing to forgive. It's the internet.

  • mesmorino

    I'm gonna go ahead and point out that If it is a release that is only intended for the US market they should probably have made it only available in the US, like a lot of other apps.

    • Onil

      Restricting an app to the US encourages piracy by users that are interested in trying it out. A more user friendly solution would be to throw in some in-app "coming soon" comments in the settings.

      • mesmorino

        That's a good solution!

  • KoukiFC3S

    Thanks for the post. Looks amazing, just ordered the cheapo obd adapter for $11. Looking forward to using the app.

    • http://thedangerbrain.com/ Alfonso Surroca

      Same here. I've been looking for an excuse to pick up a Bluetooth OBDII dongle, and didn't realize they were so cheap. Going to install Torque also since everyone here seems to be recommending it.

  • jonathan3579

    I'm wondering why they used a Nexus 5 with Samsung status bar icons. Gross.

    • Tomáš Petrík

      Because they don't see a difference. They were just like "Hey, we have the screenshots, now we need to put them somewhere nice. Oh, look, I googled a site where you can put a screenshot in a phone's frame. Sweet."

  • Tobi

    No, It does NOT say that it is only for the US. The description says that it works with every car from 1996 and is optimezed for the US.

    • jonathan3579

      Yep, 1996+ is OBD2. Anything before that is OBD1 and requires something much more specialized to read codes.

  • http://ridukkokun.wordpress.com/ Dukkokun

    If your car is not listed, just hit them with an email. They literally added mine in minutes.

  • CerealFTW

    What's the difference between the $70 and the $10 one?

    • Raymond Berger

      According to the description the main features seem to be:

      Battery Saver technology allows the device to stay plugged in indefinitely, without draining the vehicle's battery; sleeps and wakes up automatically

      Supports all legislated OBD-II communication protocols (all USA-built cars and trucks since 1996), and all international OBD-II equivalents

      World's fastest Bluetooth OBD adapter; delivers up to 300 percent more data throughput than the nearest competitor

      Includes exclusive OBDLink Android app and OBDwiz PC software

      Unlike vast majority of Bluetooth OBD adapters, which continuously broadcast their presence and use an easy-to-guess 4-digit PIN, OBDLink LX implements a unique multi-layered link security mechanism, which eliminates the risk of unauthorized access

    • andy_o

      The cheap one is known as a "clone", which is a sort of disparaging term. Generally speaking they're slower, and can cause compatibility issues. Check out the info at torque-bhp.com. Torque is an app that also uses these. They have a lot of info about these adapters there.

      The speed of the system is often referred to in PID/s. My measly 96 Civic apparently can only do certain protocols over OBDII that are themselves too slow to notice the difference. I get about 5-6 PID/s both with a BT and a USB adapter, so imagine for example my RPM meter refreshing at that frequency (Torque app). Add more displays and it gets slower. That $70 adapter supposedly can go to 60 or so PID/s if the system supports it (CANBUS, I think most cars since 2008).

      The USB version at their website here http://www.scantool.net/scan-tools/obdlink-sx.html has been tested to 165 PID/s: https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=573921722655712&id=201177323263489&set=a.251412801573274.54909.201177323263489&source=46&refid=17

  • GigiAUT

    Was already looking forward to using this on my way to work tomorrow....looks like I'll have to shelve the excitement with the other Europeans. Back to Torque I go....

  • NunjaBusiness

    I'll try it, but it is unlikely it is as full-featured as Torque.
    BTW, the $11 BT/OBDII adapter will work for most people. Do not spend more than $15 at any rate.

    • ScottyByrd

      I used Torque myself. It is an awesome diagnostic tool and gives a lot of real time information. Not to mention it costs no where near as much as this app.

      • gregbeal

        The app is free

        • ScottyByrd

          HaHa I misread what it said. I thought it said the app cost 10-70 rofl.

          • Garrett

            You reinforce the point that Ben Eros posted above. Wow. Just wow.

    • John Malin

      Does the cheapo adapter actually run all the time though? The more expensive one has info on it's amazon page saying it wakes and sleeps with your car so it doesn't run down your battery.

      • KingofPing

        None of them "run down your battery".

        Your battery would have to seriously be on it's last legs already to suffer any negative effects from the minuscule trickle these kind of devices will take.

    • Matthew Plummer

      Does it matter if I buy a cheap OBD2 adapter? Will it work the same as an expensive one?

      • Garrett

        Can you not read? It clearly states it in the article.

  • usaff22

    I can see the crash alert going horribly wrong. Your phone loses it's GPS signal, and thinks it suddenly became stationary. It sends a alert message to your family. They text back saying "OMG ARE YOU OKAY????"

    • Jadephyre

      The cars have impact sensors, it's not based on positional data supplied via GPS...

    • KingofPing

      This has nothing to do with your phone's GPS.

  • Johannes

    big boo for the ios look!

  • Defenestratus

    For an app that is actually *Good* then use Torque. It has great dev support and you can actually use it as a dash board. My three wheeled electro-rocket car uses a pair of old Xooms for its dashboard using Torque.

  • GraveUypo

    oh this is pretty cool. imma get me some of that OBD goodness right away.

  • http://www.allankintz.com ack154

    This apparently does not like the OBDII adapter from Automatic. I'm still waiting on their Android app (usually use it with my work iPhone). Thought I'd try to connect Dash to it. No go. Seemed to pair with my Nexus 5 OK, but the Dash app doesn't see it.

    • enoch861

      I believe Automatic's OBDII adapter is proprietary. You can try it with Torque and see if it'll recognize/use it but it might not.

  • Nick Cannon

    Seems that other countries do nothing but bitch what's not available in their country..

  • Matt Young

    A see a few comments about the cheap ODB dongle VS the expensive one. So does anyone reccomend a good in between one? I like the idea of the $69 one saying it has smart power saving features and super fast data read speeds. I definately dont want something thats going to lag and would like it to display info as real time as possible. Anyone reccomend a dongle in the $35 price range that would be good to mess around with DASH and TORQUE app?

    • tehboogieman

      I use torque with a $10 bt device that I bought on ebay or amazon. Works fine, but its not great. In general if you buy from a reputable seller, they will replace a defective unit with very little hassle. The $69 one sold on the Dash website is a very high quality one and its actually a good deal as its usually sold for $99. Most devices you find in the $35 range will be the same ones that you can get for $10 just sold at a higher price. The reason is that the chip used to make them are on the pricier side and its just not possible to make a device with a real chip for that price. The cheaper ones are made with copied chips and with lower quality components.

      As far as battery saving goes, I leave mine in for days or even weeks at a time without killing my battery. It may vary by car, but I never remove it unless I go to the dealer or an emissions test.

      My recommendation, either buy a cheap one from a reputable seller ($10-20) or the scantool.net LX for $69. If you have a newer Ford or GM you may want to consider the scantool.net MX for $99. Also NEVER use the CD that comes with a cheap one, at best you'll get bootleg software, at worst, some malware.

  • tehboogieman

    Anyone that has used Dash and Torque or Dashcommand compare the them? I use torque all the time, other than a much cleaner and more modern UI, is there anything functionally better in Dash?

  • Vich

    Google should have a rating system for the reviewers, like how many review that person done and what's the average review score of that person , that should avoid a lot of mis ratings , as there would be not much of a credit given to the guy who's average review score is 2 or 3 stars , given that he have done only 5 reviews ..

  • Emanuele Ricci

    Which are the differences between the two OBD devices listed on the site?

  • Frank Lopez

    Poor mans dashboard?

    I actually always opt out of any dealer technology offering for the simple fact that I know my phone and tablet will always be LIGHTS YEARS ahead and i get to save about $10k in options.

    To call it a poor mans dsahboard is insulting to the brand or the service.

  • edgarwong

    will this or torque be able to clear a "check engine" light after it reads the code?

    • enoch861

      Torque is able to clear codes. I don't know about this though. I'll be downloading it anyway since its free and looks quite a bit nicer than Torque but I doubt it has as much functionality as Torque.

  • Brad

    I don't like that they don't point out how each device interacts with the app... I'd go for the $10 one but it's not clear if you get all of the features.

  • http://www.dastardlyreport.com/ Ryan Joseph

    Holy cow, this app rocks! I have an obd Bluetooth reader and I've been using torque, but...it's not very user friendly. Gets the job done and provides lots of info, but its pretty utilitarian. Dash, on the other hand, is gorgeous. And it does awesome trip logging and actual gas cost calculating. That's so cool. Plus it's free!

  • Jason Williams

    I've been using this for two or three days now and it's "fine". I'm not really sure what it's telling me other than gas efficiency and that I shouldn't "idle" as much as I do.

    I spent $10 on the cheaper adapter and I leave it plugged in all the time. Seems to shut itself off when I turn the car off because the Dash app will disconnect from the device when I turn off the car. Not really clear on what the diff is between the $10 adapter and the $70 adapter.

    The app tracks each trip that you take and will let you know how far you went, how much you spent on gas and what your "score" was based on how many times you braked hard or floored the accelerator (those are bad things, not good) For me, all my trips have been 90+.

    It's sort of annoying but the Dash app doesn't always turn itself on when I start my car. Seems like it did to start with but doesn't anymore. I feel like it's just telling me that I'm a good/conservative driver but I felt like I already knew that.

    I should say I'm driving a 2008 Civic EX.

    Summary : it's fine, not sure it's really worth the $10 I spent on the car dongle but whatever.