Home Trapster’s Background Location Speed Trap

Trapster’s Background Location Speed Trap

What better timing than a cross-country road-trip, and the beginning of my effort to become a fully-mobile blogger, for Trapster, the iPhone app that keeps track of road hazards, speed traps and even roadkill, to update with background location for iOS 4?

The update means that, as me and my traveling partner-in-crime make our way across the length of the Volunteer State today, we’ll be constantly updated on the various snags and snares awaiting us. Or will we?

Trapster is one of the first applications we’ve heard of (outside of location-based check-in service Loopt) to bring background location to the new iOS 4, and it means a world of difference for an app like this.

In theory, the app will check your location against a database of user-submitted road hazards and notify you when one is near. It’s like having a radar detector that alerts you to not only speed traps, but roadkill, red light cameras, check-points, brush fires, flooded roads, closed roads and more. And by being able to run it in the background, we no longer have to choose between cranking some tunes on our Last.fm app and knowing what lies ahead.

The only problem, so far? It certainly isn’t that my 1995 Astro Van got me pulled over for going too fast as we passed two unmarked police vehicles sitting on the highway median, clocking every passer-by. No, it was that we did so completely unaware. There was no ding, no alert of any kind.

We discovered as we drove along that this was a two-fold problem. First, we didn’t look into all the settings to make sure that “known enforcement points” were set to alert us. So, that’s a first step for any new installs of Trapster – make sure it’s set to alert you to the appropriate hazards. But even more importantly, the GPS was way off. Time and again, as we drove down the highway it showed us in a different location heading a different direction. We’re not sure we can blame this on anything other than AT&T and the iPhone itself, as it’s been a consistent issue with location apps, from Google Maps to Gowalla, along the way.

Beyond that, when it knows where we are and sees a hazard, it works just fine. We wouldn’t imagine that I-40, just outside of Memphis and with a perfect 3G signal, would be too far out to get accurate GPS results, but maybe this app is better for city roads with strong cellular signals than anything else?

Just like you should trust your tried and true senses before following your GPS into a lake, we’d recommend using Trapster to augment what you already have – driving skills and common sense.

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