Using your phone while on the road is extremely dangerous. A safer way to stay connected is to use a hands-free kit. This is great if you want to make calls, but less helpful if you're dependent on the myriad of messaging services currently in use.
Enter Drivemode, which has been kicking around the Google Play Store for some time now. At a very fundamental level, it provides a gesture interface for a number of apps and system functions, essentially allowing you to safely use your phone without even looking at the screen. It also supports the composition and sending of SMS messages through voice recognition.
Google Maps is the de facto navigation option for most Android users, but there are some popular alternatives. INRIX Traffic might soon be among them following its big v6.0 update. It has turn-by-turn navigation, but also some smart learning features with traffic prediction not unlike Google.
The new Waze app has been in the works for a few months, and now it's finally ready to be unveiled. Waze 4.0 takes a lot of cues from the iOS version released back in October, both visually and functionally. It boasts a fresh new look, quick access to your frequent destinations, an improved driving experience, a new way to quickly share your ETA with friends and family, and plenty more features.
Google's developers are back to work now that the holidays (and CES) are over, and the first major app update is here. Maps v9.19 is out and it brings a host of pretty awesome new features. There is a new settings screen for your timeline that gives a bit more control over its operation and what is shown. A new audio toggle has been added to the navigation modes so it's a little easier to quickly shut off those over zealous turn-by-turn notifications. And there's a new driving mode that uses Google's knowledge of your habits and search history to predict where you're going during a drive and volunteer useful information as you drive—if you can get it enabled, that is.
Electronics and cars are a tricky combination. While the advantages of systems like in-dash navigation and text-to-speech SMS reading are obvious, every extra gadget that travels with you while you're driving has the potential to be a dangerous distraction. Google may be looking to solve that problem, at least as it applies to wearable devices like Android Wear watches. A recent patent published by the USPTO indicates that Google has developed (or at least conceptualized) a system for detecting whether a wearable user is actively driving the vehicle or merely a passenger.
Sygic, the company behind one of the world's most popular mobile navigation apps, has purchased Fuelio. And to sweeten the deal for users, the company is making all of the app's pro features available for free. That includes Dropbox and Google syncing, a widget, and detailed information presented in the form of stats, summaries, and charts.
In case you've never taken Fuelio on the road with you before, this app logs how much you spend on gas and how much you're getting out of each gallon. With GPS support and Google Maps integration, you can track all the places you get gas.
Google is working on its own in-car Android experience that's only just now starting to trickle into vehicles. The downside is that it's going to cost you either the price of a new car or something in the vicinity of $1,000. Some folks would prefer something cheaper, more hands-on, if you will. This one guy has taken to Reddit to show off the experience he's managed to throw together in his Toyota Prius using a 2013 Nexus 7.
Let's point out the obvious first. No, the hardware isn't as smooth as Android Auto. The Nexus 7 covers up some of the vehicle's buttons, and the charging cable is clearly visible.
When you connect your HTC phone to a MirrorLink-enabled infotainment system using a cord, you will be able to navigate the device using your car's dashboard buttons. The phone will use HTC's car-friendly interface, which organizes the apps you're likely to use while driving into a grid.
Not too long ago, I took a look at the Griffin iTrip AUX Bluetooth dongle. It was a solid product that delivered on its goal of allowing people to connect over Bluetooth in cars that don't have the functionality built-in. But at $49.99, it's a little on the pricey side. For that cost, you can get a Kinivo BTC455 that not only delivers the same capability, it supports two devices at once, hands-free calls, and controlling music playback. Frankly, it's more bang for buck.
That said, after trying out the Kinivo BTC455, I occasionally longed for the Griffin iTrip AUX. Let me tell you why.
Even though many of Waze's features for traffic and incident reporting have been implemented in Google Maps over the past months, the standalone app remains available for those who prefer it and have grown used to it. However, while Google Maps integrates with Google Now and has handy homescreen shortcuts, Waze still lacks an easy way to launch the app directly into a search or navigation. That's the shortcoming that Shortcuts for Waze aims to solve.
The app only integrates with the Shortcut creation menu on your homescreen (and in other apps that make use of it) and lets you pick a destination to create a direct shortcut for it.