Verizon Hum: Like OnStar but Better, For Almost Any Car

Verizon is switching lanes into the connected car game with Hum, a two-piece solution for adding the connected features we’ve to come expect from modern vehicles to the car you already own.

Hum is a new venture powered by technology from Verizon Telematics that consists of two devices that go in your car and a free app for controlling those devices from your iOS or Android phone. For a two-year, $14.99-per-month contract, you get a sleek black box that plugs into the OBD port on your car (the same ones mechanics use to check diagnostics) and a Bluetooth accessory that clips to your visor. This combination gives you the same, if not a slightly better version of OnStar, a General Motors exclusive feature that helps its car owners with things like roadside service, directions and more.

The OBD reader is set up for your car, so that when it's paired with the mobile app, you can see stats such as fuel efficiency and engine temperature remotely or while on-the-go. The black box also has an accelerometer and GPS, so it can help you find your car should you forget where you parked. The GPS can also be used to help the police track down your vehicle in case it’s stolen or track where your devious teens have decided to go during their joyride.

MORE: Connected Cars: A Guide to New Vehicle Technology

The visor accessory is there to connect you to mechanics who can decipher an enigmatic Check Engine light or alert emergency services in case of an accident. You can even connect the accessory to your phone via Bluetooth for hands-free calling. Verizon claims the device has a battery life of 30 days; when it runs low, you can recharge the visor accessory via the micro USB port on its rear.

Through its app, Hum can even give you an estimate on how much a specific repair should cost so you don’t get gouged by some unscrupulous grease monkey. The app can also alert you to potential deals to save you even more money.

One of the few things Hum can’t do is function as an in-car hotspot, a feature found in competing products such as Vinli’s similar OBD port-based device.

I got a brief demo of Hum on the streets of New York, and I really liked the clean and simple look of the mobile app. With a press of the button, an agent connected me to a mechanic, who quickly alerted me to a problem with the car's manifold, but assured me that continuing to drive was not dangerous and would only result in decreased fuel efficiency.

Hum isn’t quite as full featured as Vinli, but its focus on safety, diagnostics and roadside assistance makes for a device that’s good at its job without being needlessly complicated. Interested buyers can get it right now on the Hum website.

Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).