By Todd Bernhard on Thu, 02/16/2017
I have been a fan of General Magic since the Apple Newton days. But like the Newton, they went away for a while. Now they are back, with a successful Kickstarter campaign under their belt for a totally new product, Safety Lens ($99.99). Safety Lens is a combination magnetic car mount, magnetic iPhone case, and an intelligent app.
The case itself is pretty bare bones. It is clear plastic with four rare earth magnets on the back, strategically positioned to connect with four other magnets on the car mount. That car mount can be attached to the windshield, or, using the included adhesive disc, to the dashboard. The mount can accommodate the case in portrait or landscape mode, but you will want it in landscape. That lets it become an intelligent GPS device. It's intelligent because the Magic Earth Pro app can download maps for offline use (via in-app purchases) and leverage the iPhone's sensors and camera. This allows the app to alert you when your speed exceeds the posted limit or if you drift out of your lane, or if you are too close to the car in front of you.
Such features are available in high-end cars, often as part of a $1,000-plus package. Now, you can add this functionality for 90 percent of the cost. All that sensor activity is going to put a drain on your battery, so you will want to plug in the phone using a car charger. There is also Bluetooth integration so voice prompts are broadcast on your radio, as well as the Apple Watch. Like Apple Maps in iOS 10, the app recognizes where you are when you disconnect from Bluetooth so you can find your car when you return to the parking lot.
I would prefer that the case were more protective as it's not the case I would want to walk around with, but for driving purposes it's fine. Maybe a mount that accommodated a phone in a case would be a good fix. Also, you miss out on Siri integration, which would be nice because the phone is out of arm's reach when mounted. It would be nice to say "Hey Siri, I need directions to ..." which you can do now, but it will use Apple Maps, not the Magic Earth app.
I must admit the app has already corrected some of my bad habits. It warned me when I was drifting over the yellow line and if my speed was too aggressive. You can adjust the sensitivity of some alerts, so this could be a good accessory for parents to setup for their teenagers. Perhaps the best part is by having the phone just out of reach, there's less likelihood of using it for texting, etc.
- Clever use of iPhone sensors and camera
- Nice magnetic mount for windshield or dash
- Intelligent app and warnings
- Bluetooth integration
- Apple Watch integration
- Case is not as protective as I would like
- No Siri integration
If you are want a smart car, but are on a budget, for $100, General Magic can make your car smarter and safer.