As we reported earlier, Cobra made several new product announcements for 2013 at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. One of these was the unveiling of a new addition to the Cobra iRadar series of radar detectors, the iRadar Atom. The company previewed the new device along with other entries in its new product line-up, including the soon-to-be-launched Cobra SPX Radar Detectors, due out this April.
The Atom is based on Cobra's iRadar system, which combines a radar detector with a smartphone app to allow users to share detection alerts with one another in real time. It is essentially the same basic concept as the Escort Live! system. Both systems work by connecting a radar detector to either an iPhone or Android smartphone running a specialized app to communicate with an Internet database to report and receive data on traffic enforcement activities and threats in the area. This data is shared with other drivers also connected with the system, creating a virtual network of real-time radar and laser detection across the continent.
Both systems do essentially the same thing, with one difference. The Escort Live! system relies on an external, modular type of connection to create an interface between the detector and the smartphone, while the iRadar integrates the wireless interface internally into the detector itself. There are advantages to each design, however when it comes to installation and portability, the iRadar has a slight edge.
There have been a couple of iterations of the Cobra iRadar, each improving on the last. The original iRadar was launched in 2010, beating Escort to the punch by roughly a year, and was fairly well received. After Escort Live! was launched, Cobra updated their own system with the iRadar 200, which according to Cobra, became wildly popular.
The iRadar Atom
Now Cobra is about to introduce its latest version, the iRadar Atom. Cobra is touting it as the smallest and most powerful radar/laser/camera detection system they have ever developed, and the most compact radar detector on the market. Cobra claims the new Atom is 35% smaller in size than their other models in the iRadar series. The first model in the series came in two versions: the iRadar 100 (iPhone) and the iRadar 105 (Android). Each was a sleek, slim device measuring 1.15 in. x 2.92 in. x 4.22 in. According to dimensions provided by Cobra, the Atom measures 1.15 in. x 2.25in. x 3.30in. If these measurements are correct, it would indeed be one of the smallest, if not the smallest working radar detectors available today.
Of course, size may be relevant, but it is what is inside the package that really counts. So let's check the feature set.
Detects all radar and laser guns. Check. This is the most basic function of a radar detector, is it not? How well it detects them remains to be seen, but at least, to some degree, Cobra has this one covered.
Provides 360 degree detection. Check. Okay, wait. 360 degree detection of what? Radar, laser or both? We are assuming it's laser here, but it isn't specifically defined on Cobra's web site, so who knows. Just to be safe, we're going with laser only.
4 City/Highway Modes. Check. These modes allow you to customize the sensitivity levels to help reduce false alerts. Another important, but standard feature that is all but expected from nearly all radar detectors worth their cost these days.
Well, those are all really basic features. That's not much to write home about at all, as radar detectors go. But that's only a third of the entire system.
The Cobra iRadar App
This brings us to the iRadar app. This is a free app that is downloaded to the second device in the system, your iPhone or Android™ smartphone. Once the app is downloaded, it connects and communicates with the iRadar detector via Bluetooth from the smartphone. Your phone becomes part of the iRadar Atom, serving as both display and control center. Cobra recently announced plans to release version 3.1, with tweaks and new features to further improve the overall iRadar experience. The feature set provided by this app enhances the basic features of the hardware and makes the iRadar Atom - and your phone - a lot more powerful.
The iRadar app provides visual alerts from the Cobra iRadar detector itself, effectively serving as a graphic interface for your radar detector, complete with a tools menu, map view, live traffic view and a car finder function. The app adds GPS capability provided by the smartphone to monitor vehicle speed, direction and location. It even monitors vehicle battery voltage. It also displays live radar and laser alerts, information and locations of red light cameras, speed cameras and speed traps. It does this utilizing the third piece of the iRadar system, Cobra's AURA™ database.
The AURA™ Database
To complete the iRadar system, Cobra created the AURA™ database, a repository of speed and red light camera notifications, live police locations and other alerts reported by users connected to the network. Access to the database allows users to exchange locations of live police speed traps, speed cameras, red light cameras, and "caution" areas such as dangerous intersections with other members of the iRadar community. According to Cobra, this online iRadar Community boasts nearly one million users, generating 40,000 reports per day.
These components don't offer much protection on their own. However, when connected together, the iRadar Atom, the app and the AURA™ database combine to become one very powerful radar detection system. All things considered, the iRadar Atom may be small, but when used as intended, it can be a potentially powerful radar/laser/red light camera detector for any driver.