With hands-free laws popping up across the country (for good reason -- we just can’t seem to keep our eyes on the road when our phones ride along with us), an Android app has come along for those of us without Bluetooth connectivity in our cars, called Drivemode.
It brings users the chance to set their phones to “driving mode,” offering controls for audio, navigation, and contacts in a minimally distracting way on a simple interface. Not only do the voice features allow you to do it all without taking your eyes off the road, each function within the menu has its own color, allowing you a simple way to know you’re in the right place. Is it a must-have for Android-owning drivers?
After installing the app, go ahead and open it up. It will ask you to input frequently used destinations, like your home address, which navigation app you prefer, as well as the audio apps you use most often.
Once all of this has been done, the next time you launch the app, you’ll see a quick launch screen featuring drop-down menus allowing you to choose between these preferences. So you can choose to head home and listen to Pandora, and by just tapping the Launch button located at the bottom of this quick launch screen, the navigation will input your home address, Pandora will be opened, and the Drivemode interface will open, a hidden overlay.
While you’re driving, the overlay hides off the left edge of your screen. If you need to change something, you just swipe or tap and the interface opens. It is very minimalistic -- there are four screens (contacts, music, navigation, and settings) which you simply swipe up or down to toggle between the four. As you swipe into each function, Drivemode will speak the current function to you, handy when you’re driving.
The Contacts screen works in the same fashion. When you get to the blue Contacts screen, tap it and your list of contacts appears. Swipe through each one, and the app will read each name aloud making it easy to find exactly who you’re looking to call without taking your eyes off of the road. Tap the contact to then choose between placing a call or sending a precomposed text message.
The Music screen is green, and when you tap it, transparent audio controls appear. To skip a track forward or backward, simply swipe horizontally. Swiping vertically controls the volume. Tapping is the playback toggle. You can switch out which audio app is playing using the menu in the upper-left corner of the screen, but it won’t call up that app’s interface so you can browse the playlist. This app is all about minimal distractions, and browsing a playlist takes your eyes off the road!
The Navigation screen is red, and when you tap this function, you’ll see your list of preset destinations. Swiping through the destination list, Drivemode will read each destination to you. Simply tap when you hear the correct destination, and you’ll be on your way (with guidance!) If you have any appointments listed in your calendar or in your text messages, the associated destinations will be listed automatically in your preset list. Handy!
The Settings menu is pretty straightforward (and probably shouldn’t be used while driving!) Here, you can add or remove destinations, music, and other apps, as well as toggle do-not-disturb mode, set up the app to automatically read incoming messages, and even automatically launch when connected to your car’s Bluetooth. You can even set it up to automatically launch when the phone senses it is driving!
It’s worth the download -- reviewers for Cnet found that the app makes it easy to do a variety of phone-related tasks while driving without looking at the phone. The buttons are large, also facilitating the act of keeping your eyes on the road. Download it for free in the Google Play Store.