Our mobile phones and tablets can be great for the car. They hold our music collections, they give us access to our contacts and the built in maps feature can be indispensable–if it’s accurate. But they’re not perfect for driving. Screens can be a fatal distraction and if you’re on the road frequently, you can go through a lot of expensive wireless data.
Luckily, for every pitfall that slips through Apple’s quality assurance team, there’s a ragtag group of jailbreakers ready with a tweak. Here’s a list of our top 5 favorite Cydia tweaks for the car.
#5 Activator — FREE
We’re reviewed tweaks like Car Mode that can be used to enable or disable desired toggles when your phone connects to your car’s stereo, but we actually found a free method that is far more configurable. The secret is Activator’s Power Connected/Disconnected settings. For example, you can use this to automatically switch the power hungry Location Services on when you plug your phone into your car’s charger and have it disconnect when you unplug it. If you also need to toggle another service, like WiFi, you can use a wired stereo connection as an Activator signal as well. You can even specify whether the gesture only works at the home screen, the lock screen, or in apps, so you don’t accidentally enable location services when you just want to listen to music. You can even use it to automatically launch apps like Google Maps (unless you’re running iOS 6).
#4 NowNow — FREE
Driving while fiddling with a screen can be dangerous and in many cases illegal. Siri provides hands-free access to your phone and the internet, but Siri isn’t available on older iOS devices. NowNow is a tweak that allows iDevices to launch a Google Voice Search through an Activator gesture, though this feature does work best with a wired hands-free device. While the iOS version of Google Voice Search isn’t yet as sophisticated as Siri or Google Now, it can respond to basic inquiries about the nearest gas station, tomorrow’s weather forecast, and basic word translation.
#3 Universal Video Downloader — FREE
Want to watch videos on a long roadtrip without using your precious mobile bandwidth? With Universal Video Downloader, you can download videos from almost any app using your less expensive home WiFi network and watch the movies later. You can use Universal Video Downloader to download local backups of movies for yourself, or just to keep your kids quiet in the back seat for a few hours.
#2 WiFiFoFum — FREE
What do you do if you need an internet connection, but don’t want to waste your data plan? WiFiFoFum is a wardriving app available on Cydia. While wardriving can be a legally murky area–and is outright illegal if you’re using the technology to piggyback on someone else’s network without their permission–WiFiFoFum can come in handy if you’re trying to locate a nearby WiFi hotspot. WiFiFoFum includes maps and a “WiFi radar”, which might be enough to help you find a coffee shop with complementary WiFi. Just make sure you buy a coffee. WiFiFoFum was available in the app store at one point, but is now only available on Cydia.
#1 Aloud — $1.99
With Aloud, instead of dangerously glancing over to check your notifications, you can have them read to you instead. Aloud is capable of speaking out the text in every notification, as well as reading maps directions and full email messages. You can even set custom rules, so Aloud only speaks when you want to. If you need to use your iPhone hands-free, Aloud is the best system for delivering your notifications. There is already an accessibility option called VoiceOver in iOS 5 that can read notifications, but this built-in doesn’t have the feature set or sheer flexibility of Aloud.
That’s our list, but we always appreciate alternate tweak suggestions. What do you think the most useful tweaks and utilities for a car trip are? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.