Making and taking calls hands-free may be a lot easier now, but the options for doing the same with e-mail and text messaging aren't quite as ubiquitous. That is starting to change with consumer demand for those features, and these three are interesting examples of what's currently available.
Available at: Telus, Bell and Amazon.ca
The Canadian-made iLane is a Bluetooth speakerphone that pairs with both a BlackBerry and Bluetooth headset or in-car system to give you control of your phone using just your voice. Once set up, the process is so seamless that it truly is a hands-free experience when it comes to managing e-mail and SMS.
Naturally, voice commands have to be to the letter, or else the unit won't understand. But training yourself won't take long, and after about two weeks, you will be zipping through it with ease.
Unfortunately, iLane still only works with BlackBerrys (8000 series and higher), though support for Android is apparently looming. On the bright side, iLane doesn't require a great deal of setup other than e-mail addresses and contacts, and there is no local access dial-in number to access its features. Overall, it's still too pricey, but there's no denying the 7100 is a significant improvement over its predecessor.
$49.99 annually for Voice service after initial subscription term
Available at: Got2bWireless.com, Progressive Sales
The Got2b comes in four iterations - a portable unit, or three in-car units that can snap in via a separately sold QuickConnect harness. They can be used solely as voice-controlled Bluetooth speakerphones, as well as handle e-mail, SMS and calendars when coupled with the Got2b Voice service.
Getting to those other features actually requires that you call into a local access number where you say your four-digit PIN, and then tell the automated system what you want to do. Voice commands are strict, and not speaking them clearly will force you to repeat yourself, but it works really well in delivering the content you want without lifting a finger.
Having tons of e-mail read to you can be distracting while driving, so you may have to call in often to keep up with new messages. Unlike the iLane, compatibility shouldn't be an issue, since the unit and service work with a wide array of phones.
$5.99 per month with no contract (30-day free trial)
Available at: VoiceItAll.ca
A Canadian Tire initiative, VoiceItAll offers the same core services that Got2b Voice does, right down to the agnostic support for a multitude of phones, even though an official list is nowhere to be found.
Interestingly, VoiceItAll uses the same software and web setup that Got2b Voice uses. You can add up to four e-mail addresses and have your mail contacts synced over to the service from your Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo accounts, making it easy to compose or reply to e-mails. Phone contacts are synced over separately for calls and SMS. The process is virtually identical to that of Got2b Voice.
And like Got2b Voice, calling into the local access number will eat away at your airtime package with your wireless carrier, but the advantage is that VoiceItAll includes 100 North America-wide long-distance minutes every month - something Got2b doesn't have. Plus, there's no contract term, so you can cancel the service any time.
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