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Handy Car v1.5 (by EpocWare)

Epocware Handy Car v1.5

Reviewed on 16 October 2002

Price: US $19.95 (trial available)
Available from: http://nokia-7650-software.epocware.com/Handy_Car.html  

Version reviewed: v1.5

For the last few reviews, I have concentrated on 7650 applications that made using this fantastic device a lot more enjoyable while also improving its usability in certain ways. At the same time, we cannot forget that this smartphone can also make our lives easier as well.

Epocware has given us a list of applications that we can refer to as “practical”. The three that I’ve managed to review so far, Handy Expense, Handy Safe and Handy Shopper, were all good in what they individually offered and how they could assist us in our daily lives as well.

Subsequently, Epocware has followed with the release of “Handy Car”, an application for logging all your motor vehicle’s expenses and mileage information, which is both practical and complete for any driver who wants a complete portfolio of their car at arms length.

Initialisation and basic usage

Handy Car will set you back around 113 kB worth of memory on your 7650, and all that is required is to simply install the application from your PC. Once loaded onto the phone, you can immediately start to use the extensive set of features available.

On starting Handy Car, you will be given three tabs at the top of the screen, which are the main data entry points to input mileage and relevant expenses for your motor vehicle.




These tabs are:

Fuel
This is where you enter details on each of the fill-ups you perform on the vehicle. A summary of each of the fill-ups are shown on the main page sorted by date in descending order (so that the newest fill-up will appear as the first entry).

When a new fill-up entry is created, Handy Car requests the current odometer reading on your car and the cost and amount of fuel pumped. If you forgot the actual cost per litre, you can always fill in the “paid” column, where Handy Car will calculate this cost - or vice versa. It also allows categorisation of each fill-up as being either partial or full tank - which is used to calculate fuel economy. The entry can also be marked as used for “business” or “personal”, and a custom note can be added at the end.

Expenses
Any other expenses in relations to you car can be entered in this section of the Handy Car software. These may include payments for a car wash, parking, service, oil change, tyre rotation, etc. Depending on the expense “type” you choose, the little icon on the summary screen will be respective to this (see below). Again, entries are sorted by date in descending order.

Basic information, such as odometer reading at the time of expense, type of expense and amount paid are required for each of these entries. Each entry can be classified for either “business” or “personal” use, and the ability to add a custom note as well.

Trips
The “trips” section may be the most commonly-used part of Handy Car - that’s if you log down each journey you make with your car. I found this to be a great replacement for the physical log book.

For each trip entry, you will be required to enter a destination description, start and finish odometer readings (where the “distance” column will be derived from this), usage classification and custom note (if required). Although the “start” odometer reading is already there when you add a new entry, in most cases this is not the most up-to-date reading. Assuming that you keep a log of all your trips, for some reason it does not take your last trip’s “finish” odometer reading into account for this.

Road-testing Handy Car

Some of you may wonder why Handy Car needs all that information. When you compare it with a typical vehicle log book, you’ll probably find a similar level of information there as well.

Using Handy Car is actually quite self-explanatory - on the condition that you know what “odometer”, “miles” and “kilometres” are of course! Alike other Epocware applications for the 7650, the information is presented in a very clear manner - which reduces the stress in actually using something you’d expect to actually make life easier.

In addition to Handy Car being just a vehicle log book replacement, the application has two more features that can help you analyse how much resources your vehicle is actually eating up. A set of graphs and reports help make answering questions, like “how many miles can you get out of a gallon” or “how many K’s do you clock in a week”, a whole lot easier! :)

Graphs
Three sets of graphs are provided by Handy Car:

Fuel economy Distance per day Fuel costs

Economy
This shows you the average level of fuel consumption based on the entire “trips” log and using at least two “full” petrol fill-ups. If you do not have at least two full fill-ups, Handy Car is unable to make this determination. Therefore, this is the reason why the “partial” and “full” options are included in the “Fuel” section. The blue line indicates the current level of economy with the red line indicating the overall average.

Dist./day
This graph depicts the average distance travelled based on the entire “trips” and “fuel” logs. The blue line indicates the average distance travelled with each point in the graph being a fill-up of the tank, with the red line being the overall average for the entire log data.

Fuel cost
Based on the fuel cost information entered for each fill-up, this information is used here to provide a graphical view of the variations in fuel costs throughout the period of the log. The blue line indicates the current fuel cost with each point on the line being the individual fill-ups. Average fuel cost is shown by the horizontal red line on the same graph.

Reports

The three reports available aims to give a summary on each of the three tabs used for inputting data.

Top-half of the “Fuel” report Bottom-half of the “Fuel” report

Fuel
This is probably the most detailed report out of the three, which provides practical and vital information on car performance and summaries of fill-ups and fuel/distance numbers (see above). Fuel expenses for business purposes are also displayed as a separate line in the report for easy reference.

Expenses
The expenses report details the total costs incurred for each of the different expense types available in Handy Car. Any types of expenses that were never used will not show in this report. Business-related expenses are also displayed separately here.

“Expenses” report “Trips” report

Trips
A summary of the vitals for the overall trips are presented in this report - with information such as the start/end date for the log, the number of days the log has been in effect, total number of individual trips made, and total distance travelled for both overall and business purposes.

Problems encountered

One of the things that really bothered me was the updating of the odometer readings in the “trips” section of Handy Car. I found that each time I started a new “trip” entry, the “start” odometer reading for the new entry may not be the previous entry’s “finish” odometer reading. Therefore, I would have to go back out to the list, open the last entry made, remember its “finish” odometer reading and replace the incorrect “start” reading in the new one instead.

But I realised that this problem would not occur if I had made a “fuel” or “expense” entry with the latest odometer reading. Therefore, it means the application makes the assumption that each time I get out of the car I would incur an expense or have to fill up the car - which is not necessarily true.

Handy Car should be designed to take the latest odometer reading from my last “trip” entry. If you were to use the trips log, you would assumingly be using it on a full-time basis, right?

So what’s the verdict?

Epocware’s Handy Car application is on my top-3-list of the most-commonly-used applications on the 7650. Punching in numbers and information into Handy Car beats having to whip out the old log book and physically writing it in.

What is also good about having an application like this on the 7650 is the convenience of accessing this information directly from a 12-digit keypad with T9 capabilities. If Handy Car was used on the 9210 or other palmtop device, I think I will be less inclined to make use of it.

I will definitely be on the lookout for Handy Car’s next major release, where I hope it rectifies the issues mentioned and also offer some new surprises as well! :)

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