iPhone in the car


The streets of Birmingham, AL were built on old horse trails. This means that hardly any of the streets are straight, it’s easy to get lost, and main roads are narrow and slow. In other words, I spend plenty of time in the car. Thankfully, I’ve found a great combination of iPhone apps and accessories which have turned my traffic-trapped car into a comfortable cruiser.

First, the accessories. I have the Kensington Quick Release and the Griffin BlueTrip. The Quick Release is a windshield mount for the iPhone that happens to work with a case-clad iPhone. What I love is that I can pluck my iPhone from it with one hand and snap it back into place the same way. The dock connector of the iPhone remains exposed, so if it runs out of power, it’s easy to plug in and juice up.

My car isn’t terribly old, so I'm lucky enough to have an AUX input under the arm console. This is where the Griffin BlueTrip is connected, basically equipping my car with Bluetooth AirPlay. Don’t knock it till you try it. The less clutter in my car, the better. This Griffin gadget has a microphone on it as well, so if I wanted, I could use it for handsfree voice commands and phone calls. Obviously, my placement isn't best suited for this, but it could work for you. It’s pricey at $65, but if you’re in the car as much as I am and care about your audio quality, this can be worthwhile. If you're considering either of these accessories, they can be found at the Apple Store, but are quite expensive there. Instead, use Amazon; and if you use the links above, I get a little bump as well. Now for the apps...


I’m not a Birmingham native and despite living here for two years, I can rarely find my own way home. Horse trails are hard to memorize. Because my business is in-home training, I needed a voice command GPS app, and so I decided to get the TomTom app. While the UI is jarringly un-iOS like, it gets the job done and hardly steers me wrong. Unfortunately, it is rather cumbersome to select a contact’s address, so I also purchased the companion app, Nav Now for TomTom. This lets you to select a contact, then it parses the address and bounces it to TomTom.

For finding local businesses, I use Localscope. It will also send directions to TomTom, and is one of the most gorgeous iPhone apps I’ve used. The compass integration is lovely as well. 

I used to listen to music while driving, but with the amount of time I spend in the car, I got tired of listening to the same songs over and over. Instead, I’ve become quite the podcast addict, and Instacast is my app of choice. If you’ve ever tried listening to podcasts, you know how tedious it is to sync from Mac to iPhone. Instacast streamlines this quite a bit. Furthermore, it can favorite shows, send show notes to Instapaper, and export your podcast list to Dropbox. If you’d like to see what I’m listening to click here.

The next driving app is Canned. The idea is that you make "canned" text messages, for example I've saved “I’m stuck in traffic,” and within two taps, I can send the message. I have a few of these canned texts, but the one I use most is a message to my wife, telling her I’m on my way home. For inspiration on what to keep as canned messages, just browse through your SMS history to see what you most commonly send. It’s turned out to be a great time saver for me. Oh, and I should say I still don’t use this app when my car is in motion. That’s just asking for trouble.

Rick Stawarz

Minneapolis, MN

I am an Apple Certified Support Professional with over a decade of experience supporting families, schools, and businesses. Tech has always captured my imagination, but it's not my only passion. I'm an ordained Anglican minister;  Aeropress is a daily ritual of mine; I've driven across Mongolia; and I'm the father of three girls. I hope to provide for you a balanced and realistic perspective into the practicality of technology.