If you have read through this blog, you know we’re huge fans of using data and video to improve driving performance. In this post, we’ll look at options to get OBDII data from your car to your phone. If you are planning to use Harry’s Laptimer, we also suggest you start your shopping journey there. Harry is a great guy and he keeps the recommended accessory page updated (separate pages for iOS and Android.) Let’s take a look at three products that represent the spectrum of options available.
At the low end are what I’ll categorize as the “plug and pray” devices. You plug them in and prey that they work because they’re really cheap. You can find them on Amazon or ebay, often under $20 and you get what you pay for. They may work to allow you to clear some codes, but generally they are not going to maintain a secure connection long enough or fast enough to get the flow of data you’re looking for. If you found one that refreshes at a 4hrz or faster rate, then consider yourself lucky. If you’re on a tight budget, the up-side is you could buy about four of these before you spend more than the next device on our list. Our general recommendation is to stay (no, run) away from these and support the companies making an investment in this space.
Next up are the WiFi connected devices. Several good devices fit into this category and our favorite is currently the OBD Link MX by ScanTool. In fact, I wish I could carry these in our store, but haven’t found a distributor yet so search on Amazon for a deal. The data link is fast. The connection is reliable (though all of these devices take several attempts to form a connection.) It comes highly recommended by Harry and it supports a wide range of protocols. Wifi does have some disadvantages compared to Bluetooth such as complication of forming the connection (unnecessarily complex password that’s printed on the device so write it down before you plug it in) and the fact that you can only form one wifi connection at a time. You also need to disable the “ask to join networks feature” once you have a connection, or you phone may lock-up trying to connect to the paddock infrastructure hotspot as you circulate on the track. I used it for my last track weekend, plugged it in on Friday, made the connection, then forgot about it all weekend and it worked like a charm. They also make a Bluetooth version which I haven’t tried. There are more expensive recommendations on Harry’s page, but for my money, this is the sweet-spot in the market right now.
PLX Devices recently started selling the KIWI3, the latest iteration of their popular KIWI line of adapters. On paper, it offers some attractive features: high data transfer rates, easy connectivity through Bluetooth 4.1 (low energy), and good power management. The form-factor is the best of the three tested, and we like the low profile. We just couldn’t get it to work. We tested 10 devices with iPhone 5S, iPhone 6s, and Galaxy 5. We got one to connect sometimes to the iPhones. (There is a firmware update available for Android 6 users but not iPhone yet.) The price is about $20 more than the OBD Link MX. If the firmware update gets published for iPhone it may be worth it. They also announced an updated version of their old device called the KIWI2+. It has the technical specs of the old cabled device (photo right), but offered without the cable and in the new case of the KIWI3. Not sure about price and availability though. When we went to their website to grab a link it wasn’t there, so stay tuned. If you’re an Android user, it might be a slightly less expensive alternative for you to consider.