April 16, 2014, 5:44 PM — I made a plea recently for smartphones that fight harder against bad driving behavior.
I believe phones can do more, out of the box, to know when we are driving, change notification behavior to help us ignore our worst habits. There are, however, some apps and some phones that offer some defense against the world wanting to reach you while you're moving very fast.
Here are some of the apps and tools I would recommend trying out if you want to try making your phone conscious of your driving.
Agent (free for Android 4.0+)
The just-released Agent app is really a few different "agents" that fix up different aspects of your phone. One of the most helpful to my mind is the Driving agent. It automatically senses when you are driving, and can then silence, auto-reply, and (or alternately) read messages out loud and prompt you to respond with your voice.
Image by author
You set up Agent with the Bluetooth name of your car, or let it use motion detection to notice when you are moving at car speeds. You can configure Agent to set your phone to either complete silence or vibrations, to read text messages and ask you to respond (English only for the moment). Alternately, or in combination, you can have Agent automatically reply to callers or texters with a bit of text about how you're driving. It's one short page of options, and it might just make you feel like you upgraded your phone and car at the same time.
Motorola Assist (Motorola Droid Ultra/Mini/Maxx & Moto X only)
More than one commenter, friend, and Twitter correspondent noted that the kinds of things I wanted a phone to do were already done by one phone: the Moto X. The software that powers that phone's "know when I'm driving, respond in kind and be quiet" powers, Motorola Assist, is also available for a few other Motorola phones.
Image via Google Play