20 June 2012
When a Passport 8500 X50 and its new SmartCord Live power adaptors arrived one day from the good folks at Beltronics, I was stoked to use it until I found out it the only app currently available for it is for the iPhone. Since I'm a Blackberry guy, I asked my buddy Brian Sherman (who has had every iteration of iPhone ever made) to test it out for me on his road trip to the Long Beach Grand Prix. He agreed and below is his report. (Garry)
My friend asked me to review an Escort Passport 8500 X50 radar detector the other day. Since I have a tendency to stretch the limits of my local traffic laws, I thought it might be a good idea. We arranged to meet so I could pick up the product and begin the experiment. (Brian)
In the box:
There are two packages with this system. One contains the Passport 8500 X50 radar detector and the the optional SmartCord Live adaptor is in the other. The latter enables you to join a community of SmartCord Live users via a special iPhone app said to provide real-time ticket protection. Both units are well presented in very nice packaging with clear, full-color instruction manuals. The 8500 X50 also comes with a very nice storage case that allows you to store your detector, mount and cable when not in use. This is a welcome feature for an avid traveller and rental car user like myself!
Downloading the app:
SmartCord Live is a unique feature that connects your radar detector to a live network of SmartCord Live users via the iPhone app. The app sends and receives radar detection data from the network of users you to alert you to the presence of traffic light cameras, speed cameras and speed traps. It then stores the info in a cloud for other users to access to send out alerts to potential trap based on your location. It's a great concept that can provide avid commuters with another tool against costly speeding tickets.
The app required to use SmartCord Live is easily found on the iTunes app store. Upon opening the app, I'm asked to enter my user name and password. There's no place in the app to register, so you'll have to go to the Escort Web site to do this as I have. On the site there's a large SmartCord activation icon on the left of the screen. Registration only takes a few minutes, but it would be much easier if one could do this from within the app. It would be disappointing to bring this on a trip not knowing it can't be used until you can get to a computer and register the unit first.
The included bracket is low profile and simple to install. It features two suction mounts that hold the detector securely in place. The coolest mounting feature has to be the quick release on the radar detector. There is a large button located on top of the detector that allows it to be pulled from the mount. This is great if you're looking to stash the detector while not in use without trying to remove the suction cups from the windshield.
It should also be mentioned that Escort offers a traditional suction cup called the Super Cup. This has a single large flip-lever suction cup similar to what you might find on a portable GPS unit. Power connection is simple. There's a simple RJ11 phone-like connector for the detector. Part of the power cord is coiled and the rest is straight. Three's more than enough cable for my WRX and my Excursion.
One of the main benefits of the SmartCord design is the access to the simple controls. The end that plugs into your 12-volt outlet has a button to mute the unit and a report button used for tagging locations for upload to the SmartCord Live community.
Upon connecting power, I open the app to connect the unit to my SmartCord Live account. This is all done through a Bluetooth connection. I was very concerned about this as I use Bluetooth to stream audio to my stereo and I wouldn't want to forfeit that feature to be able to use SmartCord Live. Fortunately, the system allows connection to two separate Bluetooth devices and I'm still able to enjoy my music stream while using SmartCord Live.
Because SmartCord Live is always connected to the network, it's important to remember that it will use the data service from your cell phone provider. Although I doubt the amount of data used is significant, it will be something to be aware of and check on if you are not on an unlimited data plan. This also means the system can receive real time firmware updates. It took roughly five minutes to download and install the update for this this unit.
After downloading the app, hooking up the detector and updating the system, I'm ready to give the unit a try. I open the app and it shows a nice map of my location. I hit the report button and it immediately marks the map. About 10 seconds later, it confirms the report has uploaded to the network. I circle the block and return to this spot to report my location. The detector alerts me as promised and the app gives me the option to turn the alert off. This is a nice feature for areas on your daily commute where the detector may false regularly.
I try the same test with the app on in the background using the SmartCord to report a location. It works equally as well. I pull back into my driveway and shut the car off. A few minutes later the app flashes a message on my screen to alert me there has been no activity so it will be shutting off to save power – an excellent feature!
Enough for the trips around the block. It's time to see what this thing can really do! On my road trip from Arizona to the Long Beach Grand Prix, I was hopeful that other SmartCord Live users would alert me to potential dangers on the 450-mile drive across I-10. Although the detector worked very well multiple times to alert me to the location of police and emergency vehicles, the SmartCord Live feature never triggered on either leg of the journey.
This will surely change as the SmartCord Live community grows and will be a very welcome addition in urban areas. In the meantime, you still have all of the advantages of a full-featured high performance radar detector. It's easy to see the benefits of this system for avid travellers. Although the SmartCord Live cable is an extra accessory with an additional cost, it could more than pay for itself if it keeps you from getting just one ticket! Or, in my case, several tickets!