FUEL! – the not so hands-free hands-free gas station finder.
I am simply amazed at the number of applications in the IOS App store. Have you ever just thought about what it means to have over a million apps. I can remember a time, roughly 20 years ago, where I had no cellphone at all. My parents gave me a red Nokia phone in high school, which was absolutely amazing. I moved up to a Samsung smartphone with a slide out keyboard and then to a Droid Incredible and ultimately into the Apple family. I remember having to carry cash, having to know your way around town, to use a map or to actually stop at a gas station and ask directions.
Interestingly, there are apps for just about everything. Most of us know our way around our towns, we know where the best restaurants are located, where the gas tends to be cheapest and many more specifics about our home turf. This past week, I was at Vanderbilt with my sick daughter and I certainly did not know my way around Nashville, Tennessee. I found an app titled Fuel!, from VRDCI, and I wanted to check it out. The title describes the app very well. The premise of this app is a completely hands-free “without touching the iPhone” to the nearest gas station. It promises that all you need to do is to open the app by activating “Hey Siri” and then state “open FUEL app.” There are 14 native languages, and it provides a list of gas stations. You can choose from a list of nearest gas stations, each with a respective distance to the right. If you touch one of the listed gas stations, it will open up in maps. The list will cycle every 30 seconds. You will also see this list from closest to further away.
When actually inside the app, you have a few options. Along the top left is a refresh icon. You will see the listed stations along the middle of the page. At the bottom, you will see a logo for the FUEL! app, which is an F with a circle around it, a cog for settings and in “i” for info. The main screen is the F logo. Tapping either the “i” or the cog will activate a short video for an app. This is one of the methods that allows the app to generate income. Inside of the info button, you will have links to other applications. You can also rate the app and see the tutorial again. Under the settings, you can pay $4.99 to remove the ads from the application, or you can earn points by downloading free apps. Generate 50 points and then you can disable the adds. I really like that you can get this full app for free if you are willing to put in the time. This was a creative feature. In the settings window, you can convert from American to metric distances, you can change between apple and google maps and you can change the desired language.
While I was in the time warp of Vanderbilt hospital, in Nashville TN, I wanted to compare the Fuel App to the native “Hey Siri” feature. When you say “Hey Siri, Open Fuel!,” the application opens quickly to the list of fuel sites. From here, the app is NOT hands-free as it claims. You will get a list of gas stations, and it directs you to the map for the nearest one. This produced the same location as asking Siri. If you are interested in other stations, you will need to touch one of them and it will open up in maps. The problems with this feature is that I can simply say “Hey Siri, Find a gas station near me,” and you will be given the option to navigate to the station or call the station. That is a hands-free option. It is my opinion that the very first page of the tutorial provides false information. You have to touch your phone to use the Fuel app. For the first two days, there are no adds. After this, if you use Siri to open the app you will be taken to a video of the Mobile Strike App. You must then touch the “X” in the top right to move on. After touching the X it will open a map to the closest gas station. You will have to touch the Go button to get this process to work, which is again NOT hands-free.
Day 1 and 2 were tolerable. After the initial (free) period was over the ads were very obtrusive. It is not worth paying $4.99 for something that Siri already does. I did like the download app feature to generate points, which reduces the need to spend money. If you are looking for a hands-free gas station finder experience, I would stick with “Hey Siri, find me a gas station.” I would rate the app at 3/5 stars, as it is just okay and really provides minimal benefit beyond what Siri already does. It appears to be a simple app, without very many bells/whistles.
DOWNLOAD – Fuel! – iOS