You're going to be using your smartphone more in 2012 than you did in 2011. And likely more the year after that, and the year after that. It's just the way of the world, folks. That makes this resolution all the more important. And while we're all guilty of breaking it, there's just no excuse.
Resolve to be hands-free in the car
It's that simple. We know, we know. We're all important. We've all got calls coming in. We've got text messages to read. But we've got to be safer in the car. And it's actually pretty easy to do.
- If you have built-in Bluetooth, use it. Car manufacturers are offering more and more trim packages with built-in Bluetooth connectivity, and it's about the easiest and safest way to use your phone in spurts while keeping your eyes on the road on your hands-on the wheel. My wife bought a car in 2011, and I sold her on a higher trim package than she initially wanted because it had Bluetooth. (Should have gotten a commission on that.) "It's really a safety feature," I told her. And it is pretty simple. Not perfect -- dialing is a pain -- but it's absolutely better than having to reach into a purse or pocket to grab the phone.
- If you don't have built-in Bluetooth, get it. Even if you don't have Bluetooth built into your car, there some great aftermarket options. I've been using a speakerphone for years (which also streams audio into my car stereo over FM), and there are a number of great speakerphone choices. Another new one is OnStar FMV. For $300 (available from Best Buy), you get a replacement rear-view mirror that in addition to serving as a Bluetooth speakerphone also ties you into the OnStar service. Or if you have to, suck it up and use a Bluetooth headset.
- Apps can help. Voice-to-text has been built into Android for some time now, and there are a number of apps that will read incoming text messages aloud, and send them for you as well, so you don't have to be holding your phone or, worse, typing. And if you really have a problem putting the phone down (or know of a new driver who does), there are apps that will effectively shut the phone down while the vehicle's in motion. It's not a perfect system, but it's an option. Safer driving has been a big initiative for Sprint, and the U.S. carrier has compiled a list of apps like Vlingo, ZoomSafer and its own Sprint Drive First app that can get you started.
- Just put the phone down. This is the best thing you can do. Wait till you're out of the car, then get back to work.
We don't mean to get too preachy about this one. But smartphones aren't going anywhere. We're going to be using them more in our daily lives, not less. And with music streaming and navigation getting better all the time, it only makes sense that we'll be using our phones in our cars more and more. But we all have a duty to keep ourselves, our loved ones -- and each other -- safe on the roads.