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A better Android app for hands-free text messaging

Google's Voice Actions is fine for dictating messages, but what about the texts you receive? Text by Voice reads them aloud, thus keeping your hands on the wheel.

We all know texting while driving is a deadly combination, yet who can resist the siren song of that new-message ding? I'll admit it's tough not to steal a glance at the phone--and once you're glancing, you're reading.

Most owners of Android-powered smartphones know about Google Voice Actions, which, among other things, allows you to dictate text messages using just your voice.

However, there's still a bit of screen interaction required, as you have to find and tap the microphone to engage Voice Actions. And what about messages you receive? There's no hands-free help there.

Sonalight's Text by Voice offers hands-free text messaging--both sending and receiving.
Sonalight's Text by Voice offers hands-free text messaging--both sending and receiving. Sonalight

Enter Text by Voice, an admirably effective app that makes texting a totally hands-free experience. With it you can send and listen to messages without so much as touching your phone. It's entirely voice-powered.

As the above demonstration video, er, demonstrates, Text by Voice requires zero interaction with your phone (save for launching the app before you hit the road). Thus you can leave your phone up on your dashboard, at your side in a cupholder, or wherever, then go about the business of driving.

When a text message arrives, the app reads it aloud--and gives you the option of repeating it, replying to it, or ignoring it. And if you want to compose and send a message, you simply say the activation phrase ("text by voice," of course). That, my friends, is the way all smartphones should work. (Are you listening, Apple?)

I tested Text by Voice on a fairly low-end phone, the LG Optimus S, and found that it worked like a champ. My only concern is the impact on battery life, as the app is constantly "listening" when it's running. But, hey, that's what car chargers are for.

The icing on the cake? Text by Voice is free. That makes it a must-have addition to your app arsenal. The life you save could be your own--or, more importantly, mine.