Wednesday, August 27, 2008

iPhone GPS: Why NOT use it for mileage tracking?

When we first designed MileBug, our intent was to use the new GPS feature of the iPhone 3G to track mileage. It would require less effort and provide more accuracy in case of IRS audit. Unfortunately the iPhone will not allow 3rd party apps, like MileBug, to run in the background. 

So while we thought it would be great for a user to simply turn on MileBug at the start of a trip and have the whole trip mapped, we realized that if the user chose to do anything else with their phone (take a call, use maps, pass to passenger to play a game, etc) then the pathway during that activity would be lost! Why? Because in order to answer/place a call, get directions, or play a game, the mileage app would be shutdown. We could always pick back up once the user restarted the app after the other activity, but where would that leave the user...with a gap in the trip! And what if they forgot to restart? It's fairly easy to go back and fill in odometer readings, but a little more challenging to go back and fill in GPS coordinates.

We also considered having a simple GPS start point and end point and let Google Maps calculate the route. That may still be an option, but it serves the IRS more than the user. That is, Google Maps will calculate the shortest route, and thus the smallest deduction. What if you got lost and spent another 5 miles wandering? Or if you were given different directions, other than the shortest route? The start/stop GPS points would cheat you out of the deduction you truly deserved.

Please let us know how you feel about using GPS. Did we place too much importance on the concerns we came up with? Would it still be useful in some way? Just click the "comments" link below and let us know.  Thanks!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Use the GPS to determine where you are at the time you start a trip. Possibly even add GPS coordinates to clients.

Anonymous said...

I've though of this issue before, and there really isn't a good solution.

However, you could use GPS to automatically identify your location from a list of favorites. For example, you start your trip, and it uses GPS to identify you are at the office, then when you arrive at your destination, it automatically locates you at "Client A"'s location.

It's better than nothing...

keyboard samurai said...

I am considering purchasing this app and I have to say one of the other apps ability with GPS is certainly tempting. I think your concerns are valid but you would really stand out if you found creative ways to use the GPS as suggested in the other comments. GPS not being integral to how your app works means it's useful to both iPhone and iTouch users. Yet, if on iPhone, you use GPS to automatically identify locations automatically (I would think an optional setting to ask the user with one tap whether this was indeed what they wanted would be needed) and even better yet for those planning their day of business/sales calls to be able to enter in a series of up to 20 addresses in a group that the GPS automatically detects when you are near when you go back into the app allowing you to confirm this is indeed the location and then enter the odometer reading at that location. THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! In other words THINK "how can you use the GPS to reduce even further what the user has to do record what they need. Pay attention to what made Palm UI originally so successful - never more than one or two taps to do what the user wants and 3 taps is the absolute maximum.

Anonymous said...

There has to be a way for you to make this work with GPS. I would by this app if you can get the GPS function working.

Goodluck!

Brian said...

Do it just like hiking. Turn app on and have GPS fill in starting point then you can turn app off. When you get to where you are going turn app back on and have GPS fill in end point. Heck even have waypoint options for multi stop trips (I.E. construction. It does not have to be real time just functionable.

keyboard samurai said...

a follow up comment. I DID buy this app and I love it and use it on a daily basis. GPS hasn't turned out to much of an issue for me. This app got me to stay up to date on tracking my mileage and I had not been good about that before now. So some inventive use of GPS in a future upgrade that didn't get in the way of how I use it now would just be cream on top. Love this app as it is. Don't envy you the challenge of figuring out how to actually improve it with using GPS.

Anonymous said...

I would buy this immediately when it can work in the background! Been waiting for such an app since GPS was announced in the iPhone. Thanks for your great work so far

Anonymous said...

LS,

Why not use Google to give a suggestion to the mileage asking the user either to confirm or change it to the real mileage?
Otherwise I like the software very much. (Even though I am presently trying to restore the my 10 months of MileBug data after my iPhone started making a mess last night. You might consider adding an additional backup option!)

Best regards, Peter

Anonymous said...

Since I'm undecided on what smartphone I'll buy, Iphone or Droid, maybe this app would work better on the Droid? I understand the Droid can run multiple programs at once? So, I could track mileage via GPS and take calls, play games, etc. without interrupting the Mileage Bug. Or wait for an Iphone that allows multiple simultaneous functions.

paul said...

I think this is the only feature this app is missing. Hopefully GPS will be added soon, since iPhone will now support apps in the background.