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The dangers of texting or talking while driving have become familiar warnings these days, so it’s no surprise there’s technology to combat the problem. CellControl is one of the latest anti-phone products to transition from fleet deployment to consumer adoption. (Handout)
The dangers of texting or talking while driving have become familiar warnings these days, so it’s no surprise there’s technology to combat the problem. CellControl is one of the latest anti-phone products to transition from fleet deployment to consumer adoption. (Handout)

Car Gizmos

Keeping distracted drivers focused Add to ...

CellControl

  • $129.95 (U.S.)
  • Available at: CellControl.com, Action Car and Truck Accessories
  • Works with: Android, BlackBerry, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile 5 & 6

 

The dangers of texting or talking while driving have become familiar warnings these days, so it’s no surprise there’s technology to combat the problem. CellControl is one of the latest anti-phone products to transition from fleet deployment to consumer adoption. Setting it up is easy and it works well, but it’s missing a big part of the market.

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CellControl is a hardware component and an app that work together to disable the features of a compatible smartphone, which in this case would be Android and BlackBerry. This won’t work with an iPhone. The hardware is just a module that plugs into the OBD-II port, though you need to register it first on the CellControl website using the serial number on the unit itself. You can then download the app for free from Google Play or BlackBerry App World.

Once you plug it in the first time, it will initiate a Bluetooth connection automatically for you to get it going (the instructions are specific about not pairing them manually). In a couple of cases, it seemed like the connection wasn’t working, as I was able to use my phone freely. Once I rebooted it, however, everything on the phone was disabled, as advertised.

A key exception is that CellControl doesn’t have to disable phone usage entirely because it recognizes when a Bluetooth hands-free device is paired with the handset. At that point, it will allow incoming calls but outgoing calls can only work if they’re part of a pre-approved “white list.”

The account pages on the CellControl site are almost like a command and control centre where the administrator can restrict or allow a number of features, including access to Google Maps, navigation and music apps and if there should be a reprieve when stopped at a red light. In order to use approved apps, they would need to be running before the car starts moving so that the phone isn’t blocked yet.

This might appeal to the helicopter parents out there, but there are no geo-fencing options, despite the ability to receive text messages or e-mails whenever there’s been a violation or the driver attempted to meddle with the unit. The admin can also set an “override password” in case he or she needs to make a call to a white-listed number or switch between approved apps. It’s nice to have that flexibility, but it requires handling the phone, which is what CellControl is supposed to prevent.

The iPhone gap is also huge, but that’s not CellControl’s fault, given Apple’s propensity for not letting third-parties stymie its services. Even so, that’s a big part of the growing smartphone market that’s out of reach here.

In the United States, CellControl is sold with Scosche’s branding, but you can purchase the product from the site directly or from other retailers selling it south of the border. The $129.95 cost means no residual subscriptions, except you can only assign one phone number to it. Each additional number is $5 per month. The fleet model is $25 upfront with an $8 monthly subscription, but covers six phone numbers.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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