Thursday, September 30, 2010

As governments move uniformly to ban texting, and non-hands free talking while in the car, a whole crop of applications are starting to spring up to solve the problem that people will still want to text and talk while they drive; safely, of course.

This week I’ve been pitched by two companies claiming to solve this problem, with completely different approaches.

SAFECELLapp tracks your position, notifies you of local no-text / no-cell rules, and warns you of the potential illegality associated with picking up the phone. It can even disable the phone, email, and messaging functions on your phone when you exceed 5 m.p.h., if you want. It’s not all stick, though.  The carrot in SAFECELLapp’s approach is a reward program that allows you to redeem points which you earn by driving safely at major retailers, including Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble.  Cost: $11.99 at the iPhone App Store.

In contrast, StartTalking provides sophisticated voice recognition software designed to allow you to use the features of your phone, 100% eyes and hands free.  You speak, network based sophisticated voice recognition software decodes your voice, and then passes commands back to the phone. Once installed, your phone is entirely controlled. You needn’t take your eyes off the road, yet you can still send and receive text messages, initiate applications and the like.  Where SAFECELLapp has a focus on preventing you from using your mobile while driving, StartTalking seeks to enable you to use the mobile device SAFELY while driving.  Cost: free download from Android Market. A premium version with additional features, for a higher price, will ship in the 4th quarter.

One of the most intriguing points made by StartTalking CEO Chris Hassett is around business model.  StartTalking is actually a platform for hands free communication, and the company believes it can partner with radio stations and others to deliver a whole family of compelling hands free mobile applications in the car. Ultimately, you may not even require the application to deliver the service. And StartTalking will earn it’s revenue from the back end revenues it enjoys from the partnerships it makes.

Personally, I’d rather have enabling software than disabling software, but there are merits to both approaches.

Both are available today.  Download and enjoy, hands-free, of course.

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