One of the web's biggest tech and social media blogs has just announced its five finalists for Best Mobile App of the Year, and we're happy to report that one of the five is meant to minimize distracted driving. The blog in question? Mashable, and the app is DriveSafe.ly.
Like PhoneGuard and SafeCell, DriveSafe.ly is designed to reduce driving distractions from smart phones, but it does so in a slightly different way. PhoneGuard is mostly intended for companies that want to keep a close eye on their employees; it lets users know that Someone is watching them at all times. SafeCell is similar, except that "Someone" is the users themselves. In metaphorical terms, PhoneGuard is like going to a strict vegan restaurant, and SafeCell is like going on a strict vegan diet.
DriveSafe.ly, however, is a little friendlier -- not to mention handier. It's not punitive, it's not overly restrictive; DriveSafe.ly is a helper. When turned on, the app reads texts and emails aloud as they come in, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. You can't use it to reply, though you can set autoresponders, like "I'm totes driving. TTYL."
As an added bonus, the makers say that it's so lightweight, it won't drain your battery (a real problem for many apps that use GPS and accelerometer features). And unlike the fairly pricey PhoneGuard and SafeCell, DriveSafe.ly is free.
There are, however, a couple of downsides.
First, DriveSafe.ly is for Android and Blackberry devices only. Given Android's growing strength in the smartphone sector, that may not be a problem for long, but it does cut many iPhone users out of its potential target market. (NB: DriveSafe.ly says that an iPhone version of the app is in the works.)
And then there's the .ly extension -- an extension associated with Libya, which recently exerted some control over .ly domains when it took down "sex-positive URL-shortener" vb.ly. Granted, that was because the country took offense with vb.ly's overtly sexual content, saying that such material was in conflict with Libyan Islamic Sharia Law -- which might not be an issue with DriveSafe.ly. But then, if DriveSafe.ly encourages driving by women or if it has some Israeli investors, who's to say?
Admittedly, the Libyan concern wouldn't be a problem for app users once the app has been downloaded. But if a country can bump companies from its domain extensions, surely, that's got to be worrisome for the company owners and anyone needing tech support from them.
For now, however, DriveSafe.ly is up and running and in the clear: it's free, it's easy to use, and so far, it's read aloud nearly 350 million potentially distracting texts and emails. We'll let you know how DriveSafe.ly fares in the competition when Mashable announces its official winners on January 6, 2011, during the International CES Convention in Las Vegas.