Simon Says “More Hands Free Please”

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It’s been a long time since my last “Simon Says” article and if you’ve read them in the past you’ll know that one of my pet gripes is the lack of hands free support in the base Android OS.  This is just a little update along the same lines as some progress has been made and the functionality is in fact almost complete, with exceptions.

This is even more important with the introduction of more and more bans on phone usage while driving a vehicle.  Which is totally justifiable as the number of accidents increases due to phone usage while driving.

See the map below for the latest laws on text messaging bans around the country. The table shows states that have cellphone laws, whether they specifically ban text messaging, and whether they are enforced as primary or secondary laws. Secondary laws mean an officer must have other reasons for stopping a vehicle before citing a driver for using a cellphone. Laws without this restriction are called primary laws.


Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

When T-Mobile released their update for the MyTouch 3G slide, they included a function called “Driving mode“.  If you’ve seen Driving Mode in action you’ll know that it’s a complete hands free system for your Android phone.  Text messages arrive and you are asked if you want your phone to read them,  once read, you have the option to send one back with confirmation prompts along the way.

Enter the T-Mobile G2 and lo and behold the functionality is no longer present.  Why oh why do they tempt us with something pretty cool and much safer for the Android driver and then fail to add the same functionality in future devices?  I was really hoping that even though the G2 was advertised as a base Android experience phone that some extras would be included and not just the stacks of bloatware we found.

Many of you will say that there are applications available on the Android Market that will provide the same functionality and you can download them for free.  I almost agree, there are applications that do MOST of this but I still maintain that this is one area where Google is failing with the base Android OS.  They have the time and money to invest in making cars that can drive themselves all in the name of safer driving and then fail with something as simple as the phone operating system.

I also think if  T-Mobile (and any other carrier) are going to introduce something in a phone that they are selling then future devices released by them should at least have the same functionality.  This way you know if you purchase a phone from your carrier, you’re getting the same basic functionality as previous devices based on the same OS.

If you want a somewhat safer hands free driving experience, you should look to Vlingo.  Vlingo has a function called “SafeReader” that will read out your incoming texts but unfortunately, does not give you the option to return the message like the Driving Mode T-Mobile provided.  Vlingo will also read out emails for you but you have to separately configure your email accounts in the Vlingo application, which is a little bit of a pain.

Vlingo is not stopping. They have built an “InCar” feature, currently only available for Sprint customers, that has a more complete hands free experience.  The system integrates with any Bluetooth connected device and offers a much richer experience.

They created a small video showing off some of the features of the InCar enhancements.

Vlingo has a report titled “Distracted Driving” that provides some numbers and statistics about this subject.

So come on guys, let’s see more hands free integration. Let’s make our driving experience safer without having to wait for our Google car to drive itself.

About the Author

Simon Walker
I was an IT consultant for 20 years and ran my own web design and development company for an additional 3 years. I have been involved with technology from birth. OK, that maybe an exaggeration, but it sure is a long time. I'm also an avid Home Theater geek and self appointed installer for friends and relatives. My first serious modding of Smart-Phones started with my T-Mobile WING and now Android devices. I'm also a bit of a photographer, although Android has kind of taken over my life and photography has taken a back seat.

  • tmobileisajoke

    T-Mobile sucks. Im embarrassed to have them as my carrier.

  • Adiehl777

    T-Mobile included the genius feature, not google. I think it ties into their next gen “mytouch” line. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that the new mytouch will have the same sense skin as the slide. This is a selling point for such phones and it makes perfect sense why it is not on all android phones (pun intended). Vlingo is for that.

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