Behind the App: iExit Interstate Exit Guide Simplifies Your Next Road Trip

iExitSpring break is nearly here, so families and college kids from across the country will hit the road. Don’t leave on your next trip without downloading the iExit Interstate Exit Guide. This helpful universal app reveals everything a traveler needs to know about the points of interest that are available off the interstate in real time, which makes planning rest stops, meals, and even lodging, so much easier.

The creator of iExit, Evan Metrock, shares his thoughts about iExit’s new update, the clever “test mode” he invented while creating the app, and how he hopes someday that iExit will be built into new cars.

(PadGadget): iExit has been helping motorists track down a good cup of coffee or a decent meal for over three years now? What’s new in version 5.0?

(Evan Metrock): In version 5.0 for iOS, there will be 2 major additions. The first will be the results of an almost year-long project to improve our point-of-interest (POI) database. We will be adding/updating/removing over 100,000 POIs near highway exits.

The second will be a much-anticipated search improvement where users will be able to search for businesses by amenity. Previously users could only search for upcoming businesses by name, but now users will be able to discover upcoming businesses that contain certain amenities, such as “pet-friendly”, “has Wi-Fi”, “open 24 hours”, and so on.

(PG): Do iExit users ever share their road trip stories with you?

(EM): iExit users rarely send us emails telling us about their experiences, though it does happen occasionally. We find that the trucker community is much more likely to take the time to send us detailed feedback, about both how helpful they find the app and also what they’d like to see added in future updates. We love to hear as much feedback about the app as possible, so we wish this happened more often.

Users are much more likely to leave a brief review in the App Store or Google Play Store or submit new feature ideas through our feedback forum within iExit.

(PG): How do iExit Food and iExit Hotels differ from the main iExit app?

(EM): iExit Food and iExit Hotels are built on the exact same framework, but just contain different data. Back when the full version of iExit was $1.99 (and iExit Food and iExit Hotels was $.99), this concept was much more intuitive: pay a buck for a specific category, or $2 for everything. Now that the full version is on sale at $.99, this is confusing.

iExit Food and iExit Hotels haven’t been updated in awhile, so we certainly recommend anyone considering purchasing an iExit app to download the full version, especially since they’re currently the same price. We will be determining soon whether we plan to continue supporting Food and Hotels.

(PG): What if I’ve got a Wi-Fi-only iPad, can I still use iExit?

(EM):Technically yes, but mostly no. iExit has an offline mode where users can lookup interstate exits by state, and since all of iExit’s exit and POI data is stored locally on your device, you can plan your trip this way without any type of internet connection. So as a planning tool, you can use iExit with or without WiFi or cell service.

That said, iExit’s real value lies in its ability to automatically determine if you’re on the interstate and show you upcoming exits (and what’s at them) in real time. Without a GPS device (which an iPad doesn’t have) or a cellular plan, your iPad won’t be able to find your current location, and therefore iExit won’t be able to show upcoming information in real time.

(PG): What were the challenges to bring your app to market?

(EM): One of the biggest challenges I faced early on was “How do I develop an app that I can only test if I’m traveling 70 mph on the interstate?” I realized I would have to figure out how to build a “test mode” to iExit where it would simulate an interstate trip. To accomplish this, I built a separate app that would record my latitude/longitude points as I physically drove around the interstates of Atlanta (where I lived then). I then got home and exported the location data from this app and imported it into iExit, where when started up in “test mode”, it would replay that drive around Atlanta. I could then test iExit on the interstate while sitting at my desk.

(PG): Who are your favorite iOS app developers?

(EM): From a software developer’s standpoint, one of my favorite apps is Shazam. Shazam is a music app that will listen to 10 seconds of a song and then identify it for you. It’s one of those apps that even the most computer-illiterate person can learn to use, yet the technology and innovation that went into building it still amaze me to this day. Shazam is one of the best examples of turning complicated technology into an easy-to-use user experience.

(PG): Has the release of the iPad mini presented any challenges or opportunities for you as a developer?

(EM): Not really. iExit is already a universal iOS app, meaning we’ve already put in the work to make iExit display natively on both the iPhone and iPad. With the iPad mini, iExit displays exactly the same as it does on a regular iPad, just with a lower resolution. I like the iPad Mini as a cool device, but with regards to iExit, it presented no real challenges or opportunities.

(PG): Do you have any other projects in the works that you would like to tell us about?

(EM): We have several new projects in the works at iExit. One particular project currently in development is a website where business owners can add/claim their business in iExit. Once they have claimed their business, they can then update their business’s information, purchase promotional content in iExit, and see some metrics on how often users are viewing/interacting with their business.

Another large project which is about 10 days away from completion is a massive update to our Android version of iExit. We have neglected Android as of late, but it will soon be updated to the same feature set as the iOS version.

We’re also working on forming new partnerships with automotive businesses with intention of getting iExit into cars in the future.

Now it’s time for the speed round. It’s easy, just tell me which term you prefer:

Lightning or 30-pin? USB. Please just make everything USB.

Jobs or Cook? Jobs

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook for personal life, Twitter for business.

iPad or iPhone? iPhone

Wi-Fi or cellular? Cellular. Apps are much cooler when you’re not confined to Wi-Fi.

Print or digital? Digital

Work or sleep? Work, with a healthy amount of sleep.

Pie or cake? Cake

Readers, please let us know if you use iExit, or plan to use it on your next road trip.

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite