The Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s distracted driving law is simple enough, but finding an app that converts e-mail and text functions into voice prompts and commands in a way that makes it suitable for business use isn’t so easy.
Vlingo Corp.’s Vlingo app for iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Nokia and Windows Mobile devices allows you to perform smart phone functions using voice commands. Certain features, such as dialing phone numbers, are available to use for free. On the iPhone, the ability send e-mails and texts will cost you either $6.99 a piece or $9.99 for both.
Vlingo is a popular app, but physical interaction with your phone after the app launches is necessary to activate certain features. To compose an e-mail, for example, you need to tap and select the e-mail feature from the menu. If you want to send a text, again, you have to return to the apps menu and tap the selection on screen.
But features and pricing varies depending on the device you are using. SafeReader
, a Vlingo feature available on Blackberry and Android phones
, reads incoming texts and e-mails out loud and doesn't require you to touch the device.
Other voice-based apps may comply with driving laws by not requiring you to touch your phone to send or receive messages, but they may not be reliable for business use. The app may, for example, fail to consistently pick up e-mails or get blocked by corporate mail servers.
Some apps may also fall short on full business functionality, such as allowing you to hear your e-mails but not reply, or reply to e-mails but not compose new messages.
Text’nDrive, a hands-free app for the iPhone and Blackberry that launched in July from Montreal-based Hands Free Software Inc., is one example of an app with good intentions but a few kinks that need to be addressed.
On the iPhone, the app supports e-mail only, while the Blackberry version supports e-mail and text messages. A free and pro version are available, with the pro costing $19.95 and currently on sale for $9.95.
After launching, the app automatically checks for e-mail messages once every two minutes and reads incoming messages out loud. Further physical interaction with the phone is not required, so it complies well with driving laws.
If using the pro version, users get a one-time option to reply to the message by recording an audio file that is sent back as an e-mail attachment. The app does not convert audio replies to text, nor does it allow users to compose new e-mail messages.
But getting the app to receive e-mails in the first place is a bit of a struggle. The app supports Gmail, Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo accounts and works with Microsoft Exchange if the IMPA protocol is enabled.