App Review: DriveSafe.ly

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drive_safelyDriveSafe.ly is an application that will read aloud the text messages you receive while driving or doing anything that stops you from looking at your Android’s screen. The application itself is free (available from the Market) but to get more choice of voices or to be able to have more words converted (250 words per message for free), you’ll have to buy either a one time ($13.95) or monthly ($3.95) subscription (see here for details).

This is a showcase application for iSpeech. As a showcase, it is working well to demonstrate the ability to convert text to speech but it fails to be an outstanding Android application. The basic functionality is present, but there is room for improvement.

When receiving an SMS, the application will send it to the iSpeech server and will return back the audio to your phone.  This is actually one of the cons of this app.  It is fast at home with a broadband access but could take up to 10 seconds with a slow connection on the road. That could also be an issue if you are driving in an area with bad coverage. It would be better if the conversion to audio was done on the device itself. The voices are natural enough but keep in mind that only English text will work. Abbreviation and dates are converted to full words, for example you will hear 23rd October 2009 if in the text you have 10/23/09; you can test and hear this on iSpeech. Even if the voices are clear, in some cases, it would be great to have the message automatically repeated 2 or 3 times.  Plenty of us listen to messages on voice mail more than once.

One other issue, that should be easy to fix, is that when you open the application an icon will appear in the status bar.  You will still need to activate DriveSafe.ly, however, for the SMS to be converted.  The icon in the status bar is the same whether the app is activated or not. It would be better if the icon was:  a) displayed only when activated or b) using a different color. It would save you the embarrassment of having a naughty SMS from your other half broadcast to the entire office because you didn’t realize that DriveSafe.ly was still active. 🙂

It might read like a bad review, but don’t get me wrong, DriveSafe.ly is a good app that should be used by all drivers (it is also available on other phones) so that they don’t have to look at their phone while driving. They can hear the messages and stop if they need to reply. You will find that in most cases you don’t need to, getting the information read aloud is enough. There is an option to send a customized auto-reply to the sender that will let them know you’ve heard them.

CONS:

  • Icon in status bar should indicate if the app is active or not
  • Must have an internet connection to work

PROS:

  • Let you hear messages without looking at your phone
  • Good natural voices
  • Understand acronyms and dates
  • Auto reply to sender to let then know you’ve heard the message

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:

  • Missing an option to automatically repeat the message
  • Option to deactivate automatically (timed or by geolocation)


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34 COMMENTS

  1. Not to rain on anyones parade, but I made a widget/app that reads out the name of the sender when someone calls or sends an sms specifically for while driving. It uses Android tts sdk and doesn't need an internet connection. Simple, but does the job. it doesn' read about the message though. http://min.ie/26Y.

  2. Um… considering Handcent's popup quick reply reads me my messages RIGHT NOW via Android's TTS, AND allows me to speak a reply, this seems… well, kinda stupid. And as mentioned in the article, the place you'd use it, in the car, is where it will work the worst. Wow.

  3. I use Drive Safely and it works great. The TTS on Android 1.6 is very hard to understand. I would rather wait 5 seconds and have my message read to me by a high quality TTS voice than the embeded voice.

    Tried Handcent and it doens't get anything right that I speak. Unless I say Yes or No… and sometimes it messes up on that.

    Besides, I think doing the processing on their backend instead of my myTouch is going to save my battery. Who cares if it takes a few seconds… it's free.

  4. One annoying feature of the free ap is that it automatically sends a message to the sender of the text saying the message was read out by drivesafe.ly. While it is great advertising for them it does get annoying when posting to facebook or when there are 20 messages on a thread saying this was read out. May get me to purchase it though, just to stop it, so again, clever on their part!

  5. It doesnt work!
    It only announces and reads the SMS's, yet it say it will read emails as well.
    DOESN'T
    Support is weak to say the least

  6. One more major con: it doesn’t seem to work on Android 2.2 (froyo). Brand new Droid 2 and while the free app worked initially, the paid ($13.00 per year per user, even in same family) does not work. Support has been spotty at best.

  7. AVOID THIS COMPANY, once they have your credit card details they continue to debit you annually and dispite telling you do not renew they just ignore you

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