Review: Rev iPhone app and PLX Devices Kiwi Wireless OBDII Module (Part 1)

There are two things I do not usually talk about on this blog — cars (okay maybe there are one, two, three, four, five or more exceptions) and iPhone applications. The former because I am not quite sure everyone here would be interested in reading about anything except the technology behind the car and the latter because most iPhone apps do not have enough substance and utility to create a compelling review. Well I am breaking both of those rules today and for good reason. A few months ago I discovered a 40 iPhone app by DevToaster called Rev.

Rev iPhone app by DevToaster

What it does

At 40 for an iPhone app, Rev is most definitely not cheap compared to other iPhone apps. The only iPhone app I have purchased that was pricier was Navigon GPS and I rarely use it. However, when you are put into the mindset of a true car nut that spends over 300 just to install a single boost gauge, 2000 for a pair of cheap racing seats, 2000 for a basic coilover suspension setup, 400 for a professional dyno tuning session, 500 for a polished throttle body/plenum assembly, 15k for a crate engine and then 10k for a custom twin turbo setup and so on, then a 40 iPhone app is like an impulse buy of a Snickers bar at the grocery checkout.

There are several use cases for the Rev iPhone app, best described by the video below, but in a nutshell Rev gives car enthusiasts access to detailed metrics about their car's performance, the ability to create a custom gauge cluster, check engine codes, log data and lap times along with GPS. It's one of the most comprehensive vehicle tools I have seen. It is, however, a more involved setup than some of those automotive iPhone apps that rely solely on the iPhone's accelerometer. Rev requires that you install an OBDII module in your car that provides real-time data from your car's ECU to the iPhone — in this case via a Wi-Fi connection.

The official DevToaster Rev product video - shows off different use cases

OBDII is a standard port on all 1996+ cars and provides onboard diagnostics information. If you look under your car's steering wheel it will be somewhere there — car manufacturers are required by law to place the OBDII port within ~6 inches of the steering column. All OBDII ports are also required by law to utilize a friction fit and no snap lock, so installation is as simple as plugging in the module.

Why I got it

While others may be interested in using such a setup to keep an eye on MPG or checking engine codes, I purchased the Kiwi and Rev for the purpose of showing additional gauges and logging lap data. In my car I have relatively few gauges: tachometer, speed and fuel level. As someone that is very much into modifying cars and experimenting with various ECU tunes, I would like to keep an eye on air to fuel ratio, engine temperature, et cetera (note: some vehicles don't have all these sensors and you may need to purchase the Kiwi version with iMFD and install your own sensors). Rather than purchasing and installing an expensive gauge cluster behind the steering wheel or in the A-pillar, I decided to check out Rev.
iPhone 3GS and Rev app with PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi unboxed
iPhone 3GS and Rev app with unboxed PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi

Of course there are a few downsides to this approach. For one it involves using an iPhone mount that can obstruct road view when mounted to the windshield (alternatively it can be mounted lower elsewhere but that defeats the purpose if you must constantly look down to check gauges, unless you are purely using it for logging purposes) and second if you do not always remove the iPhone windshield mount when parked, that imposes a break-in risk (even if the iPhone isn't there, it has been said that thieves assume the device is hidden in the glove box and will break-in regardless. I have also even been told by a local police officer that some thieves look for windshield suction cup marks, so if you live in a crime infested neighborhood, keep a cloth and rubbing solution handy).

What you need

iPhone 3GS with Rev app, PLX Kiwi Wifi, Griffin WindowSeat mount, Griffin PowerJolt charger
Everything you need: iPhone with Rev app, PLX Kiwi Wifi, Griffin WindowSeat mount, Griffin PowerJolt charger
  • iPhone (3G or 3GS if you want GPS logging functionality)
  • Some sort of iPhone mount. Rev displays and logs G-force data but requires that the iPhone stays perfectly steady after calibrated in a certain position. I went with the Griffin WindowSeat iPhone windshield mount but found the suction cup weak and hard to engage. Anyone have any better suggestions?
Griffin WindowSeat iPhone windshield mount
Griffin WindowSeat iPhone windshield mount
PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBDII module
closeup of the Kiwi Wi-Fi OBDII module
iPhone 3GS and Rev app with PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi

What's next?

The next post in this series will go over installation of the OBDII module, Rev setup and a review of the Rev application itself.
iPhone Rev app screenshots
Example screenshots of Rev

Thoughts? Are you a big enough car enthusiast to consider a setup like this on your daily driver? What about your weekend exotic?