Tech for the Car
Driving home from work today, I noticed three people using their mobile phones in the car illegally. Texting while stopped at traffic lights or talking while driving, this was in the space of 20 minutes.
I’ve recently purchased a few items that have not only made my daily commute more enjoyable, but also safer.
Hands Free: Belkin AirCast Auto
To remain distraction free while driving, you need a good hands free solution. When we bought our new car a few years ago, we made sure to get Bluetooth installed. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth device that was used was quite poor. Audio quality left a lot to be desired which meant you couldn’t use it to play music through the stereo.
This is where the Belkin AirCast Auto comes in. A sleek looking device that connects to your phone via Bluetooth with one touch.
You can place the base plate on any flat surface in your car and the button is held on via a magnet. This means you can detach the AirCast Auto if you’re not going to be using it for a while, although it doesn’t take up much space and doesn’t look odd if left in place.
One of the greatest benefits of the AirCast Auto is that you can play music from your phone into your cars stereo as long as you have an AUX connection. The sound quality is great. Unless you’re an audiophile, you won’t notice any difference to playing a CD or the radio. You can play, pause and skip tracks directly from the AirCast, as well as start up Siri. Here are the basic controls:
- One press = Play/Pause, Answer/End Call
- Two presses = Skip Track
- Long press = Siri
Call quality on the AirCast is ok. It’s as good as you can hope for in a car without spending a fortune. The quality is better than the Bluetooth system that was installed in my car when purchased, but I don’t have much else to compare it too.
For those with an iPhone, you can use the AirCast Auto to activate Siri. I’m assuming this will work on Android devices as long as the voice assistant is activated with a long press of the home button.
Using Siri isn’t the greatest experience. Siri has a tough time deciphering the dictation of a message in a silent environment, let alone with the windows down at 60km/h. It does work well enough for simple instructions, such as reading out received messages and starting calls.
In short, this has been a great purchase. You could pay a lot more for a poorer solution. I use the AirCast Auto daily and haven’t run into any issues.
Where to Buy
You can purchase the Belkin AirCast Auto on Amazon, but make sure you get the right version for use outside the USA.
Car Mount: iOttie Easy Flex 2
Now that you can access your phone hands-free, you need somewhere to put it. I knew early on I didn’t want one of those massive claw looking arm mounts that people seem to stick in the middle of their windscreen. I also didn’t want a mount that was limited to the iPhone 5. My wife has an iPhone 4S and I want to be able to use the mount with any phone I have in the future.
The iOttie Easy Flex 2 is a simple, compact mount that can be used on the dashboard or windscreen, as well as being compatible with virtually any phone.
The iOttie uses a sticky suction pad, which makes it very sturdy. It will work on almost any surface (I use it on the dashboard) as long as the surface is flat. I tested out the iOttie on a part of the dash that curved slightly and it didn’t hold. Once you have it set up on a flat surface though, it won’t budge.
The iOttie uses an adjustable arm that tightens on the sides of the phone. This is what makes it compatible with virtually any phone. It’s quick and easy to slot your phone in.
A great advantage in the iOttie is that you can rotate the face of the mount to use the phone horizontally, vertically and everything in between. You can also tilt the arm up, down and sideways to adjust the viewing angle.
The phone is held in place well and because the mount is compact and close to the base, you don’t get too much vibration or shaking.
I have heard that after using the mount in the vertical position for several months, the adjustable arms may not hold the phone as tightly as they should, causing it to slip down. I tend to use the mount in the horizontal position the majority of the time so I haven’t experienced this myself.
This is a great little mount at a very affordable price. Many of the ugly claw mounts out there are twice the price of the iOttie. It’s not without its flaws. If your phone starts to slip out after extended use it isn’t ideal. I’ve also noticed that moving the mount to a different position on the dash revealed a circular mark from the sticky pad. It’s not the easiest mark to get off either.
Despite these flaws, in my opinion the positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s an affordable car mount that doesn’t look hideous, is compact, completely adjustable and can even fold down to take up even less space.
Where to Buy
The cheapest I found once again was on Amazon. Here is the link to the iOttie Easy Flex 2 on Amazon.
In a future post I’ll discuss some of the apps I use to take advantage of your smartphone in the car.