- Large lists of nearby rest stops, restaurants, hotels
- Built-in reviews, one-touch calling, and directions
- Gas-price searches
- Sometimes has trouble acquiring GPS signal
- Some crashes
When driving in an unfamiliar place, which we often are when on vacation or road trips, it can be hard to know where to find the nearest bathroom, a good restaurant, or the lowest price on gas. RoadAhead, an iPhone app that uses GPS to pinpoint your location, attempts to solve this problem. But do its bugs prevent it from being a good travel partner?
Finding What's Nearby
RoadAhead takes advantage of the iPhone's built-in GPS to help you locate nearby facilities, from restaurants to hotels, rest stops to parks, medical resources to ice cream shops. If you can't get a good GPS signal (more on that in a minute), you can also select the state you're in, the highway you're on, and an upcoming exit. Whichever you choose, in a moment, the app will display a list of matches to your search.
When you see a match that interests you, you can tap on it to see its location, get a one-touch button to call them, and see its reviews from Yelp, if there are any (this is smart. How else to know whether a nearby restaurant you've never been to is good or not?). If you tap on the match's location on the map, you will be switched to the Maps app, where you can get turn-by-turn directions to the location.
Another nice touch is RoadAhead's built-in gas-price tool. If you've selected Gas as one of the things you want to find, the app will show you the current price of gas (you can even select the grade, including diesel) and when the price was updated. One small bug I found with this feature is that when you select diesel gas, it will show you that price where available, but will still show stations that don't offer diesel without making clear that they don't have it and that their prices are for regular gas. Not very helpful to the diesel driver.
While RoadAhead didn't provide a completely comprehensive listing for what's off the nearest exit on I-95 near my neighborhood in Providence, it did return so many results it's hard to imagine anyone not being able to find what they need--assuming it's actually nearby, that is.
Sometimes-Shaky GPS and Occasional Crashes
While the basic idea of RoadAhead is terrific, there are a few bugs that hold it back.
First, the app's ability to acquire a GPS signal is sometimes shaky. I didn't have any trouble getting a signal on I-95, but was rarely able to lock on in my house (not a problem with other GPS-enabled apps). Reviews at the App Store echo this problem, too. While this wasn't a huge problem for me, I can imagine it causing greater problems in locations with less coverage.
Second, the app crashes more than it should. When tapping on an individual listing, there's no problem. But the app crashed each time I tapped an exit number to get a map-view of every nearby resource. Again, not the biggest problem, but if you're going to include that feature, it needs to work.
The Bottom Line
The RoadAhead is a capable app and one that people who travel a lot to places they haven't been will find very useful. If the bugs can be squashed, it will be a top-notch travel companion. As it is, if you're wiling to put up with a few quirks, it should make your trips more pleasant.