If there's one cell phone phenomenon that the media has awarded more attention to than 'sexting' as of late, it would undoubtedly be the growing problem of texting while driving. The texting while driving debate, seemingly jump started by a memorably graphic video out of Wales illustrating the worst case scenario, has hit epic proportions -- and a number of companies have risen to the occasion to try to curb the problem.
Among these companies, DriveSafe.ly offers a free and paid application targeted at helping drivers keep their eyes on the road. Currently available for Android and BlackBerry smartphones (and coming soon to iPhone and Windows Mobile), DriveSafe.ly will read aloud incoming text messages and emails, and even automatically respond to incoming messages with a customized response.
The software can be activated and deactivated with just a couple taps, and the newest version will optionally activate and deactivate based on the speed you are traveling -- though count on this helpful feature eating up some extra battery life. The free version of DriveSafe.ly will read aloud up to 25 words of an incoming message, while the paid version of the application ($13.95) will read off up to 500 words.
All things considered, we were pretty impressed with DriveSafe.ly's software. The voices sounded natural, and we had no problems understanding most messages. We tested the application with a BlackBerry Bold 9700 on AT&T's 3G network, and were satisfied with having our incoming messages read back to us about 10 seconds or so after they were received. Because DriveSafe.ly converts texts to speech on a remote server, however, we can imagine that the wait may be painfully slow in poor coverage areas or areas without 3G.
The application almost flawlessly recognized when we started driving, activating itself. It had a bit more trouble, though, deactivating -- sometimes taking from 5 to 10 minutes to deactivate after we'd hopped out of the car. Certainly not a deal breaker, but anyone who's received an ummm...private text message while strolling into work at an early hour may want to consider manually disabling the software, lest that private text be read aloud to the entire office.
Where DriveSafe.ly did fall short, though, was in the realm of sending customized auto responses. After texting our test phone, we were almost immediately texted back. The problem was that instead of sending back our custom message ("I'm driving right now, broski. I'll hit yah back in a quick sec."), we received a garbled mess of symbols. A bug in just the latest BlackBerry software version? Perhaps. There's also that certain problem of self control, and resisting the urge to respond to the burning question you just heard read aloud while barreling down the highway at 65 mph.
DriveSafe.ly has a few kinks to work out, but for the price of free -- or even $13.95 -- we consider it an outrageous bargain if it saves your Jetta from the scrap yard or, better yet, saves you from becoming the star in your own real-life worst-case scenario.
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