Automatic: Reviewed

Guest post by Jon Carl:

This isn’t your normal app review. Most reviews only cover an app: its usefulness, design, ease of use, etc. This review will cover those, but it has an accession to the normal app review because Automatic comes with a hardware component as well.

Purpose & Functionality

Automatic is made up of two components: the app, and the Link. Together, these two pieces help the user track different statistics about their car which will hopefully help the user drive smarter. The main purpose of the app is to help the user drive in a fuel efficient manner. To accomplish fuel efficient driving, Automatic uses a drive score to give feedback to the user. A drive score represents how efficiently the user is driving for the current week. A drive score of 100 is perfect, and a score of 0 is bad. The drive score is calculated from 3 statistics gathered using the Link.

A cars OBD-II port is used to connect the Link directly to the car. To connect to the user's phone, bluetooth is used. By connecting to the car using OBD-II, the app can log braking, acceleration, speed, and also any error codes the car may have. Those 3 statistics are used to calculate the driving score. If there is rough braking, rapid acceleration, or high speeds, the Link will beep to alert the driver that they are doing something that is wasting gas and the app will log the ‘incident.’ From the home screen of the app, users can see the following things in relation to the current weeks logs:

  • Miles driven
  • Hours driven
  • Cost of fuel for the distance driven
  • Average MPG
  • Drive score

The home screen also shows the current location of the car using a map and statistics for each individual trip taken.

What I love about Automatic is that you can track distance and MPG as well as see any "check engine" codes. Having these on the home screen of the app gives me just what I want when I open the app. It’s also a simple tap and any "check engine" codes will be right there. Having the insight into what is actually causing my "check engine" light to go off is really helpful.

Automatic also has a feature where it can automatically detect crashes and call predefined emergency contacts, but I have thankfully not had to use this feature.

Rating: simplicity, usefulness, beauty and necessity

  • Simplicity. (8/10) Setting the Link up with your car and phone is really easy, but the Link doesn’t always connect to your car on the first time which is really quite annoying. Once inside the app, it’s very easy to navigate around.
  • Usefulness. (6/10) I can track my MPG, fuel cost, and "check engine" codes right from my phone–what more could I want? Well, you can’t set the fuel price; Automatic magically gets that price from somewhere. That is really inconvenient for me because I prefer a more precise gas cost. I don’t care if I have to manually enter a price when I fill up. Also, the app counts any speed over 70 MPH as bad, which then brings down my drive score. I drive regularly on roads that have a speed limit of 70 MPH, so this ‘feature’ is quite annoying. Automatic should at least raise the 70 MPH to 75 or 80.
  • Beauty. (8/10) The UI works and looks better than a lot of apps I have used, but it isn’t amazing.
  • Necessity. (7/10) I could garner everything this app tells me from my car already, but not as easily or centrally. It’s not something I need, but it is something that saves me time and helps me drive better.
  • Stickiness. (9/10) I have my complaints with the app, but honestly, I don’t see any reasons to move away from it. It’s not a necessity in my life, so why spend a lot of time debating whether or not I want to move away from it?


Automatic is available from Best Buy or the Apple Store and works with both Android and iOS.

Header image from the Automatic Press Kit

Jon Carl