The latest cars often come with telematics services that let you monitor maintenance and location from a smartphone app. The Zubie Connected Car Service lets you retrofit an older car with many of these capabilities.
Zubie consists of a “Key” that plugs into a car’s OBD-II port, something you will find on every car built from 1996 on, and an associated smartphone app. The Key scans the car’s internal data, and includes a GPS chip and mobile data connection.
The Key beams its data up to the Zubie mothership, which in turn makes it accessible to the smartphone app. Zubie’s system works very similarly to other devices I’ve reviewed from Delphi and Audiovox.
After a few setup steps, installing Zubie proved very easy. Upon loading the Zubie app onto my iPhone (there is also a version for Android), I had to sign up for an account. Then I entered the VIN and odometer reading for my car.
To connect the app to the Key, Zubie provides an activation code. But more conveniently, the company also includes a card with a CR code, so I could scan it with my phone’s camera rather than type a string of letters and numbers.
After these steps, I plugged the Zubie Key into my car’s OBD-II port (usually somewhere under the dashboard). For this test, I used a BMW 428i I happened to be reviewing. The Zubie Key is compact, so fit easily up under the BMW’s dashboard, but its white coloring and brightly colored lettering made it anything but a stealthy install.
Screenshot by Wayne Cunningham/CNET)
I was pleased to find that, after one short trip in the car, Zubie was up and running, making the data for that trip available to the app. This setup procedure was much simpler than that of the Delphi Vehicle Diagnostics device.
The account of my trip not only showed the entire route on a map, but registered data points for my top speed, amount of time spent idling, and any incidents of hard braking or acceleration. The BMW I was driving included an idle-stop feature, meant to save gasoline at stoplights, and the Zubie trip report included an amusing little exclamation point on the route for every time the engine shut down.
The app also posted that hard braking incident as an alert to my phone