Here's what Voice on the Go is all about. You sign up, choose a local number to connect to them, and assign yourself a 4 digit password. If you live in a smaller town and there isn't a number for Voice on the Go you can call any of the numbers. If you're on a national cell plan there won't be any extra cost.
You then go to the Voice on the Go website and put in your email details, and you can upload a CSV file that contains your contacts. This is much easier if you have an iPhone, so more on that later.
Once you are set up and in the car, you can call Voice on the Go, and an automated attendant will ask for your passcode. You'll then be told if you have any emails or SMS messages. You can listen to them, skip them, delete them, or the really nice feature, you can respond to them. You do it all by voice, with simple and obvious commands.
You dictate your mail, and the Voice on the Go software turns it into text and sends it off to the proper destination. As an added feature, your email gets an audio attachment so the person can listen to what you said.
How accurate is the transcription? Very. I sent about a dozen emails and every word was correct. That was calling from a noisy moving car using the Bluetooth speakerphone. A couple of times, when I was on a rough patch of road and issued a command, the attendant would ask me to repeat something, but the system always got it on the second try.
The system works with any cellphone, so what's special if you have an iPhone? First, as I mentioned, there is now a Voice on the Go app [iTunes link]. The app is free, and you can sign up for a free, 60 day trial. It allows you to sync your contacts and your email, and then dial the service with a click. Of course once the setup is done, you can access Voice on the Go from anywhere. It's in my iPhone address list, so I can call it up by voice, and give my password by voice. In my car, I have built-in Bluetooth, so I can call up voice on the go without touching the phone at all.
As a test, I drove around town for a couple of hours. I had my email read to me, and sent off some replies to emails and originated a few new ones. The system alerted me to a text message, read it to me, and I dictated a reply. Since Voice on the Go has my contact list, it is easy to originate an email to anyone by saying their name. If they have more than one contact email, it tells you that and lets you choose the one you want.
Here's the bottom line. I was able to drive around town, check and create email and SMS messages and never once touch the iPhone. Before I started using this system, I was always distracted by the iPhone letting me know there was email, and I waited until a stop to look, but even that is not safe.
I guess it is possible to be distracted just dictating or listening to an email, but it has to be damned safer that fooling with the phone while you drive. Voice on the Go can be a life changing experience for heavy email users, and many of us are.
I had one glitch in the setup. I couldn't get my MobileMe mail to sync, but I dropped them a note and the techs quickly replied and fixed it without asking me any questions. I think I had a port number mistake. I set the system up on the web interface, rather than through the iPhone app.
The systems supports POP3, IMAP, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and Exchange. If you download the free app you can watch a video of the system to get an idea how it works. If you are using IMAP, you can delete mail from the server or not. It's a setting in you can choose or change later.
After the 60-day free period, Voice on the Go is U.S. $5.99 per month. It seems a low price for the convenience and added safety on the road. Of course you are using cell minutes to make the calls, so if you are close to your limits now this may not be a solution for you. In my case, I'm under every month and roll over minutes are building up at a rapid rate.
If you find yourself in repeated close calls because you are fooling with your cellphone in the car, this service is a godsend. If you have an iPhone, the setup process is much easier.
There are computer crashes and car crashes. We might have a few of the former, but we don't need any of the latter.