Distracted driving has become a real concern in the modern smartphone era. Whether it’s playing music, using your phone’s navigation, or incoming push notifications, calls, and text messages, keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead can be a challenge.
One unique solution is O6 ($99), a small, pocket-friendly disc about 1.75 inches in diameter and half an inch thick. Instead of touching the iPhone or iPad display, users connect via Bluetooth LE, then press or rotate O6 in a variety of ways to control and navigate. The remote lasts about a week on a single charge, with a haptic motor capable of over 200 vibration effects.
Available in Tangerine Orange or Cool Gray, the anodized aluminum hardware has a premium look and feel, topped by a textured dial with three buttons: Center for making selections or play/pause control; a donut-shaped ring around the middle for exiting; and an outer bezel, which can be rotated to select next or previous tracks or control playback volume.
O6 includes a USB charging cradle, but no mounting hardware. Two are available for an extra $19 each: One that clips to a strap or pocket, the other for steering wheels. (For $99, mounts should be bundled—they’re essential.) All three accessories use the built-in magnetic connector to hold O6 in place.
O6: Eyes-free remote
Although O6 supports basic tasks like media playback from any app, there’s also a universal iOS app that unlocks Advanced Mode. Once enabled, O6 works with VoiceOver for complete eyes-free navigation of the iOS experience. It’s worth noting this mode disables the touchscreen, so you’ll have to use the Home button to toggle back and forth.
The app includes Channels, which allow O6 to read supported content out loud. Current selections are lean: Twitter and Notifications are useful, but NPR One and Pocket have limited appeal. There’s also email, which is limited to a single Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, or Hotmail account. (Additional providers and Channels are planned, hopefully iCloud among them.)
I had trouble remembering button shortcut combinations—not ideal while driving, especially when my SUV has media controls built into the steering wheel. But for those with a visual impairment or commuters who spend weekdays trapped in the car, O6 is an intriguing new way to interact with iOS.
Not quite the cure for distracted driving, but if you can remember what the buttons do, O6 is great for adding remote capabilities to automobiles that don’t have them.