Cobra iRadar Review

Posted: June 21, 2011 in Rants & Raves

I’ll admit, I occasionally break the law by speeding. I don’t generally like having a radar detector, but I do like having them for a long road trip. Last year, I bought the Escort 9500ix, and while it was a spectacular device, I thought it was a bit expensive ($500+) for what it could do, and I didn’t like that you have to have a subscription paid for each year for updates to their speed trap database. So, I eventually returned it and didn’t buy another.

This year, I decided to buy another radar, but I decided on a much cheaper one this time around. I purchased the Cobra iRadar after some reading. I bought it understanding that it’s not perfect, and that it has a ton of potential. I haven’t used it a lot, and I already have a lot of complaints. They are all items that can be fixed. Some are simple software bugs in the app. All my tests are done on my iPhone 4, or my iPad, but mostly the iPhone. I’m quite disappointed that there are no specifications for this device, as to EXACTLY what radar bands it is capable of detecting. Their web site just says it will detect “all radar and laser signals”. The only indication of exactly what it can detect, is in the app itself: X, K, Ka, VG-2, POP. Nothing related to laser detection.

I bought the radar and set it up in the parking lot of Best Buy. It paired right up with my phone without a single issue. I already had the app installed before I bought the device, so as soon as I opened the app, everything worked. Setup was literally 90 seconds. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I got my first warning. Right there was a cop with some radar. I also caught a speed trap on my way back to work. I don’t like that the blue light is on when paired with the phone. There needs to be some sort of indication that the detector is communicating with the app. This would be nice for having the app running in the background, and connecting to the radar from a pocket. This makes crowdsourcing work from a pocket.

After getting the device home, and really playing with it and the app, I started to find its problems. I have a simple K band radar gun at home that I used for some of my testing. When I pull the trigger on the gun, it can get speed within milliseconds. The radar takes at least 2 seconds to respond to my radar gun. However, I had it catch a cop using POP on the freeway, before I could see him. So it’s obviously got the capabilities.

My complaints are with the app itself. It’s nice, but far from perfect.

  • When receiving a radar alert, as soon as the signal disappears, so does the alert screen. A quick detection from a distant store disappears so fast that you don’t have time to mark it as false.
  • Even though you mark a location as false, it still makes the same amount of noise the next time it is seen. There’s no option to mute that specific alert. (i.e. a store, or a radar sign in your neighborhood)
  • The mute button on the radar alert screen of the phone, mutes the detector, but will not unmute it. The mute icon also does not reflect that it was touched, and that it has muted the sound. You must press the mute button on the detector to unmute.
  • It would be nice to have an option to only run in background when connected to the detector.
  • When on the map, every time you look at details for something, or leave the map, it turns auto-center-map back on, even if you turn it off. So every time you tap on a speed trap and look at details on one 100 miles away, it will recenter the map to your location when you return to the map.
  • When switching to City mode, the radar says “City, X”. Why the X?
    -ANSWER: This means the detector will only beep once when detecting an X signal. Not sure why that needs to be said, but whatever.
  • A speed trap known to me is on the map, but at a speed of 65mph, the phone didn’t warn me soon enough of the trap. If they had been there and using laser, I would have been caught. Detection should be sooner at higher speed.
  • It would be nice for the map to work in landscape mode
  • It would be nice to be able to browse the map and see traps in locations other than within your current location radius, like on the route for a 2500 mile road trip. I am about to take a trip where a leg of it will not have any data access, and it would be nice for that data to be cached in the app until the next time it gets data back.
  • What happens when I’m driving where I don’t have internet access? Do speed traps that are already downloaded in the app, still detected?
  • Severe lack of documentation. There is nothing out there that explains the features of the app. While many are clear as day, some are not. I haven’t been able to figure out if crowdsourcing is actually implemented and working, or not. I don’t know what the purpose of marking an alert true/false is, even though I know what it’s supposed to be in theory.

UPDATE July 20, 2011

Just got back from a nice long trip through Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. This radar detector is seriously awesome, though I did notice a couple of problems. I notice that compared to the Escort 9500, it’s not quite as sensitive, and therefore gives more realistic warnings of radar signals. The Escort would alert miles away from even the weakest signal, causing you to spend most of your time turning on and off the cruise control, or just ignoring the detector.

My trip was about 2500 miles, and I abused the speed limit the entire way. The iRadar detected every single cop I saw that was running a trap. And in most all cases, it warned me of the cop before I ever saw him. There was only one time that I saw the cop before he hit me with Laser.

I do have one issue with the detector now. It no longer talks to me to tell me what band it is alerting me to. Sure, I could memorize the sound, but I thought the idea was that the option to turn off voice is available in the app. Doesn’t matter what I toggle the option to, voice does not work the majority of the time. The first time I heard a VG-2 alert, I didn’t know what it was, because the detector didn’t tell me. But close to the end of my trip, one laser signal I got it actually said “laser” just like it’s supposed to. I will be calling Cobra about this issue.

Overall, for the price, I would highly recommend this device. Especially with its soon to come features.

UPDATE: 2-17-2012

Just got back from another road trip with just over 2000 miles. This radar detector continues to exceed my expectations, when out on the open road. It still goes off all the time like any radar detector when in the city, but when on the freeway, this baby excels. Due to it’s weaker detection capabilities, it tends to give fewer false alarms. 80% of the times the detector went off, we saw a cop eventually. In many cases, we were alerted in enough time to drop 15mph off our speed, and watch for another 15-30 seconds before we’d actually see the cop coming from the other detection. Likely about a mile. Not sure why anyone in the world would need more advanced warning than that. With the Escort 9500, it would go off several miles before we’d ever see the cop, and most of the time it would end up being a false alarm for whatever reason. Just because a radar detector can detect signals from farther away, doesn’t necessarily make it a better radar detector. It just means you get alerted 5 miles before you see the cop vs. just one mile.

UPDATE: 12-28-2012

I am still loving this radar detector. I actually just bought one last month for my wife, for her birthday. She loves it too. She really wants me to hard wire it into her car so she doesn’t have the stupid cord hanging down. Anyway…

There have been no updates to the app for a couple months, but honestly the app is now so good that the updates aren’t necessary. I swear, whoever wrote the app must have been learning Objective C as they went, because the initial version of the app was terrible, and today’s version is as if it was written by an experienced programmer. Well thought out, lacking massive bugs, and has tons of features that are actually useful. It even supports the iPhone 5’s taller screen. I love the detection capabilities when you enter an area where a cop has been recently.

My only issue I have noticed lately, and this must be due to the iPhone 5, is that when the detector is on and connected to my phone, it causes my car speakerphone to work improperly. I usually end up at a point where I think I’ve lost a call and can’t hear the other person anymore. They can hear me, but otherwise I hear nothing. If I turn off the detector, this seems to go away. Hard to tell if this is due to changes in iOS 6 or the iPhone 5 hardware itself. My wife has also said that she notices it messes with the bluetooth audio in her car when the detector is on and connected. But, she also has an iPhone 5, so again, hard to tell. I still wouldn’t spent 5 times as much money for a detector whose only additional capability over the iRadar is its ability to learn consistent radar signals based on geolocation, and mute them. I wish the iRadar app would give me the ability to mute radar signals in certain areas. Like places I drive with radar signs that I know the detector is going to go off, and it doesn’t matter whether or not there’s a cop there. Now, it would also be nice if it could mute a specific radar band in a specific location, so that if there is a different radar band in that area, you are alerted to it. Like laser vs. Ka vs. K.

  1. Robert McGaha says:

    Thanks for the review and updates. Really helped me in deciding on my purchase of one.

  2. Jason says:

    Still like it? I think I might pick one up at my best buy tomorrow. I’d love to hear about more successful catches, just to completely push me on-board. Thanks!

  3. Timz says:

    Thanks for the write up and real life experience with the unit. I’m just getting used to using one of these and its helpful to know what to expect. I appreciate it!

  4. Claus Frandsen says:

    Brilliant review – 100%. very useful.


  5. Luke says:

    I have had it since december works great new app update is nice.. no complaints saves me soooo many tickets.. but are you sure it doesnt detect laser?

    • Ricky says:

      Yeah, great stuff. I never said it doesn’t detect laser. It just doesn’t have the option to turn laser on or off.

      I’m not too impressed with the new redesign of the app, but I haven’t had a chance to use it enough. My wife said that she has used it a few times, and it did nothing but go off at every intersection about red light cameras and speed traps. Damn thing wouldn’t shut the fuck up. There’s no way to tell it to not alert you about a specific camera or speed trap, which would be a great feature. I also hate that they removed the always showing speedometer. It sucks when any app takes away a good feature.

  6. Mark says:

    Does it seem to use a lot of data for downloading updates and map info? Also what did you find out regarding driving through areas without data access? Did it cache the information or is non of it available as long as you are in those dead spots?

    And thanks for the thorough review with updates!

  7. Leanne says:

    Did you ever resolve the fact that it stopped talking when it detects a signal? Mine is doing the same thing.

    • Ricky says:

      I sure did. It was something even Cobra couldn’t figure out. You have to reset the iRadar to factory defaults from within the iPhone app. After I did that, all the voices started working again.

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