Drive Makes In-Car iPhone Control Easier, But You Still Need To Stay Safe [Review]

Keep your eyes on the road

Drive is a tool for drivers who want to get basic tasks done on their phones with just a tap or a swipe, controlling your phone just as you’d control the other dashboard gadgets in your car.

The layout makes sense from the start: the lower two-thirds of the screen are divided into four large colorful buttons, easy to tap while driving. One is for calls, one for texts, another shows a map, and finally there’s one for music.

Tap music and you go straight into a song. Swipe sideways to shuffle to another, tap to play or pause. The controls are large enough that you can use them without looking, and that, of course, is the entire point of the app. You can concentrate on the road.

My favorite control is volume adjustment: just slowly swipe two fingertips up and down the entire screen. You get instant visual feedback with a green overlay, that turns redder as the volume increases.

The Quick Call and Quick Text features are self-explanatory, but need a bit of initial setting up. Add a list of preferred contacts for calls, and you’ll be able to swipe through them easily, then tap to call. Preset text messages, to preset individuals, mean you can send an “I’m on my way!” message, or a “Stuck in traffic, going to be late” message with just a couple of taps.

The maps view integrates Apple’s iOS 6 maps, which might be a good or a bad thing, depending on the quality of the maps data in your area. Your current location is always displayed in large text, no matter what else you’re doing in the app. There’s also a dimmed-screen night mode which you can activate in the settings.

Drive Makes In-Car iPhone Control Easier, But You Still Need To Stay Safe [Review]

Setup quick messages for later

There’s only one control that remains small and impossible to tap without looking at the screen, and that’s the Home button that takes you back to the app’s main control panel from any of the sub-menus. It would be nice if there was a swipe gesture for this.

Overall, Drive does a good job of making certain important tasks much simpler and easier to get to. It would be useful to have even just for your passengers to use, because car journeys can sometimes be bumpy enough to make normal buttons difficult to tap accurately.

From a technical standpoint, this app performs well and has everything going for it. It’s nicely designed, and apart from the inability to swipe back to the home screen, very functional. From a legal standpoint, it’s more questionable.

Here in the UK, the law is simple: it’s illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving. If your phone is held securely in a dashboard mount, it’s OK to use it when you are parked. Simply being stationary at traffic lights is not good enough: you have to be pulled over at the side of the road. The makers of Drive have sensibly included a prominent disclaimer to this effect. I’m not sure what the law says in the US and elsewhere, but the disclaimer is much the same: make sure you’re obeying local laws when using this app, or any other app designed for use in the car. Safety always comes first.

Drive is one dollar on the App Store right now, but will be going up to two dollars soon.

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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