What It Is: A hands-free smartphone car mount that lets you send texts, get directions, play music, and make calls with voice commands. The ZeroTouch comes in two varieties: an articulated suction cup mount, and a smaller air vent mount (for dashboards too rounded or cramped to accommodate the cup) that clips onto an air vent. The mount attaches to your phone magnetically, and requires that you either attach a rectangular metal strip to the back of the handset, or slip a metal disc under the phone's existing case.
Day 1: When you pull the ZeroTouch out of its box, you're instructed to download the free, Android-only ZeroTouch app. Within minutes of trying the ZeroTouch, it was clear who shouldn't buy it. iPhone users need not apply, since they can't download the Android app, and cheaper mounts can be found elsewhere. Owners of old Android phones should also beware, since the app requires version 4.4 or later of the Android OS. The ZeroTouch requires an adapter — a metal rectangle, or a metal disc — that serves as a bridge between the mount and your phone. Phones in cases should use the disc (placed inside the case). But, really, no one should use the rectangular strip, because it's a poor fit for handsets with anything but the flattest frame.
During setup, the app asks you to select four other apps that it will interact with, to correspond with four different hands-free functions — calling, texting, navigating, and playing music. You might pick Spotify for music playback, and the phone's native texting app for sending texts. And here's the cool part: To activate one of these, you high-five the mounted phone — not making contact, but coming close enough to set off its proximity sensor — and then talk to it. This is a clever way to reduce power usage, since the phone isn't constantly listening for orders, and therefore actively churning away at natural language processing algorithms to try to pluck possible voice commands or prompts out of random noise.
Day 2: The air vent model's clip is wonderfully grippy, it doesn't block your view of the road, and it offers more flexibility in terms of optimal placement. And by restricting you to four functions, none of which includes e-mails or open-ended Web searches, the ZeroTouch limits the cognitive load associated with driving while doing digital things. Hands-free, after all, isn't brain-free, and complicated voice-activated tasks can still draw your attention away from operating a lethal amount of high-speed alloys. If you need more from the phone than calls, texts, directions or music, you honestly shouldn't be accessing the phone, no matter the interface.
The high-five gesture is great. Swatting at the phone is reliably useful, and entirely glance-free, avoiding the need to look-and-tap through an unlock code. Again, this is a smart way to strike a balance between making the phone easily accessible, and avoiding rapid battery drain. If, for example, you aren't using turn-by-turn directions, a standard mount system might require that you wake up the phone in order to ask for the latest Strokes' single from Spotify. ZeroTouch gets there with a high-five and a request. And though the app misheard us at various times, that's just the state of voice processing tech in 2016.
Day 3: ZeroTouch gets one specific kind of interaction so right we're officially in awe. You're driving to meet a friend, and you place your phone on the mount. The magnetic attachment — and the disc sitting in your case — automatically activates the app. A few minutes later, your friend sends a text asking where you are. The app reads the text, and recognizes a location request. So it — the app — asks if you want to send your location. If you confirm, then your friend will get a link showing exactly where you are. That's exactly how technology should work. ZeroTouch is optimized to handle one of the most common situations, and to actually anticipate your needs, and offer a quick, intuitive shortcut. Instead of dangerously tapping out a response, or still somewhat dangerously making a call (hands-free calls are still major distractions), or even asking the driver to suss out where he or she is, and how to explain that, the app simply sends along map data.
ZeroTouch has some other texting tricks up its sleeve, like suggesting responses ("I'm on my way") based on detected context, and hands-free music playback is fun. You can also change that high-five gesture to a wave, though that seems more prone to accidental activation. But what's fully sold us on this mount is that limited (so far) capacity to anticipate and then instantly fulfill your needs. Even that fussy metal disc seems more and more like a good thing, since it means you can slap the phone onto the mount at any time, including while you're already on the road, and know with complete certainty that the app is now available. If you have the hardware to use this mount — a not-terribly-old Android phone with a case — and drive anywhere on a regular basis, there's really no excuse to not use it.
[$60 or $80; logitech.com]
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