Gadget reviews: OnStar FMV, must-have smartphone apps
About 6 million people have OnStar. You're familiar with OnStar, right? It's the blue button on the rear-view mirror that lets subscribers get driving directions or emergency assistance from a real, live human being. (Sorry - they have yet to invent zombie driving assistance.)
This summer, 90 million autos could potentially use these services when OnStar rolls out its first aftermarket product, called OnStar FMV (or "For My Vehicle"). It's a rear-view mirror that replaces the one currently in your car.
The gadget can contact OnStar through a supplied cell phone connection or using Bluetooth and your own cell phone.
It's expected to cost $300 at Best Buy and other retailers. It'll cost $100 to be installed, and an OnStar subscription is $19 per month or $200 for a single annual payment.
The OnStar FMV has GPS built into the replacement mirror so subscribers can get turn-by-turn directions downloaded to the car. But unlike other GPS devices, OnStar senses when your car has been in a crash, and it can help track down your vehicle if it's stolen.
Must-have smartphone apps
Remember when Nextel phones had the "push to talk" buttons that connected folks with similarly equipped and programmed phones? A free app for your iPhone or Android phone can do pretty much the same thing.
HeyTell is a voice-messaging app that connects you to other HeyTell users. You just open the program on your cell phone, pick a contact and start talking in walkie-talkie fashion. It's quicker than sending a text or email, and it's free.
The messages can be sent via WiFi or through your cell phone provider. If this app is closed on your phone, you'll still receive a notification that a message has been received.
If you have an iPhone, you can take better photos using gyroCam ($1). Using the gyro in your phone, this app automatically levels your photos in real time. No more uphill- or downhill-looking shots of friends or landscapes.
In addition to this gyro feature, the app also includes burst or timer modes, focus and exposure indicators and up to four-time zoom.