Automotive App of the Week: Car Butler
Navigation, Traffic, Services and More Delivered to Drivers
The developers of Car Butler describe it as "the all-in-one app for people and their cars." It's hard to argue with them: Car Butler boasts a thorough and helpful set of features. Tapping through the free app, you'll find options that include weather reports, GPS navigation, traffic information and the ability to locate such services as gas stations and repair shops. And it makes accident reporting less stressful and a lot easier.
Like any tool that claims to do everything, the big question is whether it's better to go with it, or rely on several dedicated apps that do one or two things really well. Another question is whether a do-it-all app performs as advertised. That's what we wanted to find out.
Car Butler's multitasking starts with the home screen, which uses the iPhone's GPS capabilities to show the local time and weather. The home screen also has four icons along the bottom. The first is Commute, a navigation function that offers three alternate routes when you input an address or point of interest.
When we tested this portion of the app, it consistently served up smart routing options to Los Angeles locales. After touching the "Directions to here" button, it offered routing on Google Maps, although not with the voice-prompted, turn-by-turn directions that the best dedicated navigation apps provide. The app does give you the option to save the route for future reference and use, however.
Tapping the Services icon also offers a Google Maps interface, paired with an overlay of small icons denoting auto-centric options like gas stations, repair shops, car washes and parking, all powered by Yelp. There's also a traffic function, and it, too, runs on Google Maps traffic data.
Comprehensive Accident Reporting
We hope you never have to use the Report icon. But if you do have an accident, this portion of Car Butler is very comprehensive and handy. It starts by giving you a choice between a one-tap 911 call or the "Start Accident Report" button. Tap the latter and you get Accident Report fields for Accident Time and Location that auto-fill via your phone's GPS capability and an Accident Description area in which you supply the details.
Without exiting the app, you can take verbal notes using the iPhone's voice recorder feature, and take and store up to four photos. In a separate field, you can also take and store up to three images of other vehicles involved. Additional fields let you note vehicle damage as well as police and witness information. Finally, you can also save your automobile insurance information and e-mail a complete accident summary with just a tap.
Free Butler Service
The upshot is that Car Butler is all about convenience and having everything close at hand in one app. It brings together info and data that are readily available separately on Google Maps or Yelp. It makes it easy for you to use iPhone functions such as voice recordings and the camera without exiting the app.
One drawback is the reliance on Yelp, which is only as thorough as the crowd-sourced information that feeds into it. While we tested Car Butler, we found that the app missed items like a popular repair shop in our L.A. neighborhood. And in head-to-head testing, Google traffic data doesn't usually stand up to dedicated traffic apps like Inrix, which Edmunds previously reviewed. But, hey, it's not every day that you can have a butler available for free.