Go car shopping… on your iPhone

Autotrader iPhone Application

by Ben Smith on 16th March 2010

Autotrader – the popular UK-based motoring website and magazine – has launched an iPhone application today adding to their existing mobile site.

Best known for it’s classified listings this application provides access to Autotrader’s huge database of vehicles for sale but allows users to search locally to them using the phone’s GPS.  Cleverly though, it also allows users to snap a picture of a car’s number plate and (for free) to retrieve the full make, model and specification of the car.  Using this information you can then browse reviews of that car or search for similar models for sale – ideal for when you see a car you like in the street, want to check prices of similar cars locally before buying or just want to proce you mate’s lieing about his car being the top-end model, despite the AMG badges he’s stuck on it.

I played with the application before launch, running around the back streets of London snapping images of mini-cabs and smart-looking off-roaders… it worked brilliantly and has all the sensible options to save your favourite cars as you might imagine.  The image recognition of number-plates worked well and the search returned sensible-looking results.  One logical extension for this application would be to add a vehicle history check (the kind clever people do to make sure the car they’re buying isn’t an insurance write-off or has outstanding finance), but the people from Autotrader tell me that – for the moment – this is a test to see if people prefer an application over their existing ‘.mobi‘ site.

Having agreed loudly with a number of people who consider developing for the iPhone both a ‘gamble’ and a ‘lost cause’ (and having some sympathy with that view) I was intrigued to hear why Autotrader had picked that platform – we’ll be running a follow-up with the actual numbers that persuaded them it should be the first platform to develop on. But in the meantime try the app and find out what that boy racer’s really got under the bonnet.

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