The most useful app for motorcyclists ever?

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No matter how many times I explain it to people, it never really seems to sink in: I can’t answer my phone or text you back while I’m riding. Sorry, I just can’t. That might sound simple, but it’s a problem because, in 2012, people are used to being able to check in any time, anywhere. Now, with iOS 6, there’s a solution: FindFriends. It will pinpoint any user’s location in seconds using GPS.

Use Case 1: A couple nights after getting home from hospital, I was really, really hungry, but had no food in the house and wasn’t able to walk very far. No problem, Sean MacDonald said he’d bring me some tacos. But when I say I was hungry, I mean I was ravenous and, half an hour later, he still hadn’t arrived. Where the hell were my tacos? Pulled up FindFriends, looked up Sean (top image) and there he was, headed north on the 101, past my exit. Great, those tacos were going to be a while (and were a little cold when they arrived).

That might sound silly, and it is, but swap out the hungry cripple for a girlfriend wondering when she should start dinner or business partners waiting on you to start a meeting and you can start to see the usefulness.

FindFriends is free and is one of Apple’s own apps, so it works seamlessly. It also requires that both parties in any tracking situation give their consent, so some random stalker can’t use it to figure out where you live. You can also grant temporary authorization (say during a weekend ride) or turn off tracking altogether whenever you want. To track or be tracked, you need iOS 6 and the app.

Use Case 2: You’re out for a group ride and have stopped for gas, candy, group hug, whatever. But, that slow guy who always brings up the rear hasn’t been seen in 20 minutes. No need to hope you’ll both be stationary with your helmets off at the same time to check in, you can just pull up the app and see both their location and if they’re moving or not. That’s good for organization and group piece of mind. “Don’t worry, Sean’s just lagging behind, he made the turn and it looks like he’ll be here in five.”

The locations provided by FindFriends, at least while testing it in and around Los Angeles, have been shockingly precise. I can see which direction people are headed in on the highway and, if I zoom way in, I can even get an approximate idea of which room I’m in in my house. Looking here, you can see I’m on my back porch. Sure is nice out.

That level of precision might sound a little over the top, but imagine the piece of mind it’ll give you if you’ve lost a friend during a ride and you can see that he is on the roadway and moving, not lying in a ditch, completely still.

Simply by being able to report your location back to your friends or loved ones, in the absence of texts and phone calls, is actually a powerful, useful thing. It’s probably not appropriate or positive 100 percent of the time, but when it’s needed it can create piece of mind, help people find you if you’re lost or hurt or broken down and help people keep tabs on your movements when it’s necessary or useful for them to do so. That’s a big step into the 21st century for life on a bike.

  • JaySD

    Actually Wes its been in since iOS 5. I used it with my wife for many of the reasons listed because I don’t treat my phone differently in the car than I do on the bike.

  • http://www.nateweaver.net Nate Weaver

    Wife and I have been using this for a year now, helps with shopping. Good thing I have nothing to hide!

    Learned just last night you can now set notifications for when somebody leaves or arrives somewhere…or send notification to somebody for you leave or arrive somewhere…

  • Anthony

    If, for some reason, you find Apple products abhorrent, the Android counterpart to this is called Google Latitude. I think it has been a part of the map program for a couple of years now.

  • JTB

    Droids have done this for awhile using Latitude it is very hand for that.

  • Gene

    Um, how is this different from Google Latitude, which runs on even my ancient 4 year old original-model Droid?

    • http://pics.zenerves.net/index.php?gallery=vehicules tropical ice cube

      Or Symbian – any not-too-old version of googlemaps comes with it. Using it here for at least 2 years.

    • Archer

      Well, for one thing, it isn’t telling Google where you are every moment- and linking it to you. I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. But then I don’t blindly trust Google to “do no evil”.

  • Corey

    Hey guys, Has anyone heard of Google Latitude? Sheesh.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I love how smug Google nerds are. The rest of us enjoy the sleek integration with the rest of our devices, the nice cameras and the easy UX of apple.

      • isambard

        He said, smugly.

      • Geoff The

        Not to mention the awesome maps app, am I right?

        • austin_2ride

          Yeah, something new that is a crowd-based solution should never be used. I can remember a time in the early 1990′s we used Web Crawler, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves all before Google was launched. With your attitude Google Latitude would have never came to be.
          Also the iOS6 uses actual turn by turn navigation. The previous Google maps only gave directions that you had to toggle manually. Thus making it easier to miss a turn or be involved in an accident.

          • Tony T.

            Unless you were using an android phone in which case turn-by-turn directions worked awesome.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

        Rollerblader.

      • Andrew

        Reminds me of a great PA comic.

        http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/7/12/

      • gsx750f

        And the hipster factor.

      • Gene

        Meh. I thought about getting an iPhone, but I discovered it’s a lot easier to write Android apps.

        I have a couple basic stupid ones, including one that reminds me if I’ve lubed the chain on the SV this month or not, and another one that tracks all the maintenance and mods I’ve done to the bikes. It also tracks things like “what the hell’s the stupid procedure to fire the ABS self-test on the FJR?”

        I ported my money app from PalmOS to Android, and I have records back to 2003 that were originally entered on my Palm III (RIP) – I use my phone as more of a PDA than a phone. I think I’ve used 17 voice minutes in the past year.

      • Foy

        give him a break, you’ve probably broke down and let off a little snark at some guy who just didn’t understand motorcycles but talked about them anyways. next time you feel the urge to do an article like this (and it would be awesome if you did), just run it by a few “nerds” first.

  • muckluck

    I’m not hiding under a tin foil hat, but I find being that “connected” a little too invasive, and creepy!

    • paulo

      THIS. yep I’ve nothing to hide but this whole concepts make me shiver. We live in such a heavily surveilled society and our digital footprints are easy to follow but I want to choose how and when I can be contacted. I love nothing more than going riding or hiking and turning the phone off.

      Another thing does this ‘movement data’get onsold to advertisers to further target you ? I would hate to be getting spammed based on proximity to certain stores etc.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        You guys realize you can turn it off right? And only people you authorize can track you. You can also switch off any GPS/location activity of any kind on your phone, regardless of whether or not you use this app.

        • paulo

          sure you can turn it off. still creeps me out : )

          • http://somethingjustgotreal.com x

            do u really think that if you dont have this app, they can’t see where you are or target you based on your location?

            this allows people you know to see where you are along with the gov’t and apple and starbucks and everyone else.

            • austin_2ride

              Huh, just like an Android or Windows phone. The only way to not be traced is to not have a digital footprint.

        • Tommy

          Iphones can always be tracked. Was listening to an interview with some crazy undercover reporter chick and she said she had to switch to droid because people wouldnt meet with her cause the gps tracker on an iphone is always on since you cant pull the battery out. You can pull the battery on a droid I guess and no GPS. Thought that was interesting. Big brother is always watching.

          • austin_2ride

            New Driods have non replaceable batteries also.

        • Gene

          Remember, a cell phone is continuously polling local cell towers, and the cell towers know how far away the phone is by signal strength.

          Given that you can usually see 3 or more towers, the phone company has a pretty good idea where you are. It keeps these records for billing as well as troubleshooting reasons, and they can be subpoenaed.

          This is true for feature phones as well as smart phones. The only way to defeat this is using “airplane” mode or turning it off.

          Me, I don’t care… my life is an open book that’s too boring to read.

  • circuitsports

    the most useful app is one where not only can you let all your friends know where you are at for seemingly no reason but then flip the script and use it to mooch off them as well.

    I must be reading this wrong, lolz I jest.

    The most usefull app is googles free turn by turn navigation I’ve been enjoying for the last 4 years.

    Also with google voice you can listen to your voice mails live and if its an emergency tap the answer call button on the headphone cord and pull off to the side of the road.

    • http://somethingjustgotreal.com x

      ios6 has that as well. pairs with the sen a smh10 headset nicely

  • http://lightsoutknivesout.tumblr.com/ Scott Pargett

    Def had those moments where you’re wondering if you’re buddy is slow or severely injured.

    This is a great tool that you can easily turn on or off.

  • http://www.kenta.ro Kentaro

    I would really like to see a list of useful apps put together for motorcyclists. I use RadarNow! (android) to check radar before riding every day, and this was very useful in cross country trips on the gs.

    I used an app similar to FindFriends when I rode to Taos, NM from MI with the lady. Family was freaking out about the trip so I gave them a unique URL to see where I was at any time. Problem was once I got in to southern Colorado the data connection dropped and they thought I was dead in a ditch in the middle of the desert. Father actually called the state troopers to check the location because I was MIA for 2 hours, WTF. FriendFinder/G Latitude are pretty nifty for motorcycle trips with buddies but man there can be some bs when paranoid cagers have that power.

  • Glenngineer

    Google Latitude let my wife get to the scene of my accident over the summer. Pretty awesome. Its also fun for her when I’m flying on business.

  • M

    “Peace” of mind. : )

  • http://somethingjustgotreal.com x

    a) it’s faster to get to your house off the cahuenga exit than to sit in sunset traffic when stuck in a car with my girlfriend and your tacos

    b) we used it on a camping trip recently with my buddies who insisted on having a chase car. they were able to tell when we pulled off for gas or changed routes even when they got stuck in traffic

    c) this isn’t new you jackass

  • Lawrences

    Does Apple make a motorcycle oil I should be using in my bike?

    • adrenalnjunky

      No, but Starbucks make a 10w/40 Mocha Latte that should be only slightly more expensive than Mobil1 Synthetic.

  • cdeforrest

    Chiming in to add that Google Latitude runs on Blackberry, iPhone and droid, so you can track all your friends, iphone hipsters and droid nerds alike.
    Also it’s been out forever.

  • 85gripen

    I used Latitude for a while but my one buddy who wanted to use it is pretty paranoid about being “tracked” so oftentimes he’d disable it, making it pretty useless.

    My favorite motorcycle app is RideLogger for Android by Nick Holliday (http://download.cnet.com/Ride-Logger-for-Android/3000-2136_4-75330865.html). It let you export your ride logs to Google Earth for a visual representation of your ride. You could even do a 3D satellite view. You could move your cursor over any point in the ride, such as a turn and get your speed, G-force and even lean angle. If your ride was short enough you could import into Google Maps for sharing, but Google Maps has a limited number of data points.

    Unfortunately RideLogger’s no longer available. I e-mailed Nick who told me he pulled it because he never had the chance to update the app like he wanted to and still plans to someday. His day job got so busy it got in the way of updating his app. Since I was a paid customer he e-mailed me a copy of the app after I lost it when my phone got wiped.

    A similar app is MCN’s Ride Logger app for iPhone (http://www.motorcyclenews.com/MCN/iphone-app/).

  • dashzero

    By using SIRI and a Cardo Scala G4 you can reply to send and send text very effectively.

    By pressing the center button on top, you will hear a beep. Thats SIRI waiting for a command. YOu can send a text.

    WHen you hear a text come in, you hit the center button, and then say “read text” You will hear the text that came in read to you.

  • wwalkersd

    The catch, of course, is that this only works if you have cell coverage where you’re riding. I don’t know about you, but I ride in a lot of places where cell coverage is meager to non-existent. IF you want to be trackable there, there’s the Spot tracker and/or Spot messenger, that communicate via satellite. Of course, folks close to you still won’t be able to look up your location using their phones, but at least loved ones at home can do so.

    Disclaimer: I have no connection to Spot other than as a satisfied user. And I’ll even leave it to you and Google to find their web site.

    • Kevin

      ^This. The little transponder things are tough as nails too. I forgot to close my tailbag, rode down the street a bit, decided a wheelie was in order, set down said wheelie, and promptly saw my spot in the mirror bouncing off the asphalt. Took a little chunk of rubber out, but other than that it’s solid. If you do any serious adventure riding, venture off the beaten path, or ride spiritedly outside of cell coverage, it’s the only way to go. It’s not cheap at $100yr but it does come with med-evac insurance and if I ever need it, I’m sure it will be worth a lot more than I will spend with them in a lifetime.

    • Archer

      Yep, that. 90% of my rides are in places with no cell or data coverage- price you pay for some of the best canyon roads in the world.

    • JVictor75

      I was actually logging into HFL for the first time in 2 months in order to say this exact thing.

      To my knowledge neither of the applications mentioned (FindMeSpot and Google Latitude)talk to each other, and neither will work away from cellular coverage areas.

      Also, running a realtime-updating, GPS-using messenger service application has got to be taxing on your battery life.

  • roccopeterbilt

    Anyone using a helmet with built in bluetooth? I’ve wanted one for awhile but can’t bring myself to pony up the dough. Loved the first one that Dainese brought out, they sure ain’t cheap. Just curious if anyone uses and loves/hates it.

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