iLane Review

February 24th, 2009


The iLane is a device from IMS that connects to your Blackberry (and soon other phones) via Bluetooth. Once connected to your phone and a Bluetooth headset you can use voice commands to have it read aloud your email and news. You can also use it to reply to email or place calls.


When I first heard about the iLane I have to admit I was pretty skeptical. Phones have had voice command for years. I remember the Sony Ericsson T68 from many years ago had voice dialing and voice commands including a neat magic word feature so that you didn’t have to press a button to have the phone listen to you.

Where the iLane is different is that it listens to you continuously. You can even interrupt it while it’s speaking. You don’t have to train it or anything and once you’ve memorized the commands (there aren’t that many) it’s pretty effortless. If you have trouble remembering the commands, by default, the iLane constantly prompts you with different commands and what they do. Once you’ve memorized them you can turn the prompts off.

I guess you could say that while voice commands have been around for years on phones, they’ve never worked well – till now.

At $599 CDN plus a $7.99 monthly fee, the iLane isn’t cheap! Still, when you spend a lot of money on something, it’s always nice if it’s slightly over engineered.


For your money you do get a device with some extra ports, some of which aren’t yet used. There’s a USB port which can be used to charge things plus it can be used to update the iLane’s firmware. Ports which aren’t yet used are the microphone jack, line out, expansion port and another USB port.

Now a decent headset is required for voice commands so IMS includes a BlueAnt Bluetooth headset with the iLane.


The iLane has got to have the easiest setup ever. First; go to on your Blackberry and download and register. Next I plugged it in and after waiting 30 seconds for it to boot, it started talking to me. It told me to pair my phone with the iLane and then to pair my headset. That’s it for setup… amazing!


The iLane comes with a vent mount so you can attach it to your car’s vent. I tried to attach the vent clip to the iLane but couldn’t because it fit too tightly so I couldn’t slide it on. Oh well.

One minor problem I had with the iLane is that some cars (like mine) continue to supply power to the 12 volt connector even when the key is out of the ignition – this means some of the iLane’s LED’s remain lit which makes it intriguing to thieves. Still, you don’t generally need to touch the iLane often so you can also hide it somewhere that’s more out of the way. I put mine next to the hand brake lever. If your car has a 12 volt outlet in the truck, it might do okay there as well.


What’s neat about the iLane is that you can interrupt it at anytime. If it’s in the middle of reading you some news you can jump to your email by saying “Browse”. You don’t have to press any buttons (unless it’s in “do not disturb” mode).

By default, the iLane talks to you a lot. It’s constantly telling you the different commands you can use depending on what menu you’re in.

It has 4 main functions; reading email, voice calling, reading your calendar and reading news.

The iLane alerts you whenever you receive a new email. You can also browse your messages.

You can move between messages by saying: “Next message” or “Previous message” and then choose to read it by saying; “read message”. One feature which I’d like to see is the ability to rewind a few seconds in case you’re listening to a long message and miss part of it.

You can reply to a message using some canned text (predefined messages) or by voice message. The voice message gets attached as an mp3. Here’s where the iLane could use some work. When I first was introduced to the iLane, I thought it would be useful for truckers or other people who work in fleets. The flaw with the mp3 message is that the recipient can’t listen to it if they’re also using an iLane.

Still, this probably won’t be a difficult fix; all IMS needs to do is to send the mp3 message to a voice to text service which can then translate it into a written email.

You can use the iLane to dial numbers (by saying them out loud) or by searching your phonebook. When you’re done a call, you’re supposed to hang up by pressing the button on the BlueAnt. I found this didn’t work. When I pressed the button, it toggled the voice isolation feature on the BlueAnt instead – it didn’t matter if I tapped the button or pressed it for a second.

The ability to read news is nice; there are different categories you can choose from, each of which have around 5 stories you can listen to. Like the message reading feature, I wish there was the ability to rewind in case you miss something.

I think the news feature is more of a preview of what features might be available later.  I’d like to see a link on the iLane website where you can enter RSS feeds which the iLane can read to you.

Besides news you can also listen to the weather.

Now if you don’t want the iLane to stop talking, there are 3 different commands to do this. “Quiet” stops it but the iLane will keep listening for commands. “Good bye” will make the iLane stop talking/listening to you unless you get a new message or press the button on the headset. “Do Not Disturb” will make the iLane stop talking/listening to you, even if you receive a new message.

One feature I’d like to add is a “Do Not Disturb” mode which can be deactivated when you say a magic word – then the iLane would be truly hands free.

About the only thing I found confusing (meaning I had to reach for the manual) was how to turn the headset off. It turns out the iLane must be in “do not disturb” mode before you can turn the headset off.


I tested the iLane with a Blackberry Curve 8130 and a Blackberry Storm.

Being able to interrupt the iLane while it’s speaking is something you have to experience – it totally changes the whole user experience.

I lowered the volume on the car radio whenever I wanted to use the iLane. While you can interrupt the iLane while it’s talking, there’s a one second delay from when you talk to when it responds which I found slightly irritating at times.

Like I mentioned before, if you reply to an email from someone else with an iLane they won’t be able to hear the message (if they’re using the iLane).

The iLane is slightly akward to use if there’s someone else in the car. You’ll have to be in “Good bye” or “Do Not Disturb” mode if you want to carry on a conversation. The iLane also gets fooled sometimes when I clear my throat.

Other than that the iLane works really well.


While the iLane allows you to keep your hands on the steering wheel (or on your coffee/radio/lipstick/shaver/GPS/etc.) it can be distracting at times. I suggest you buy a AC to 12 volt outlet so that you can learn to use your the iLane before you start driving with it.

Personally I didn’t find it distracting, when I had to pay extra attention to something else I just tuned the iLane out or put it in “do not disturb” mode. Still, whenever this happened I wished there was a way to rewind an email that is being read.

The other thing to consider is the iLane’s price. $599 Canadian and $7 a month isn’t cheap.

While the iLane is targeted towards people who spend a lot of time behind the wheel and consider the ability to listen to/reply to email valuable enough to spend $ on it, there are some other groups which may find it useful;  the blind may find it useful as would people who spend a lot of time in the gym or are addicted to video games.

While the iLane works as advertised I can’t help but wonder how long it will take before it’s capabilities are built into your phone so that you can have it’s capabilities all the time. Still, if you want this functionality you can have it at a price.

Howard Chui

Entry Filed under: Latest Accessories

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