Verizon Hum is an aftermarket Onstar-like service that provides diagnostics and roadside assistance.
Verizon is getting into the consumer automotive diagnostic and roadside assistance market with Hum, a new aftermarket device and service that connects drivers to any help they need.
Hum is currently available via the Hum by Verizon website. It works with most automotive diagnostic ports and, according to the company, is compatible with nearly any car made in the last two decades.
Hum consists of two components: a diagnostic module and a speakerphone device that clips to your sun visor. The diagnostic module plugs directly into your car's diagnostic port and begins working immediately, connecting with any onboard diagnostic equipment, getting a GPS lock, and connecting to Verizon through its built-in cellular radio. The speakerphone automatically connects to the diagnostic module over Bluetooth, and provides direct interaction for the driver.
The speakerphone is very similar to an OnStar system, with individual buttons for making speakerphone calls with a separately paired smartphone, contacting roadside assistance, and contacting emergency services. Only regular phone calls require a phone; Hum's services connect directly through the diagnostic module's cellular connection.
Hum optionally works in conjunction with a free smartphone app to provide more information and options to the driver. The app can identify individual diagnostic codes (useful when the Check Engine light comes on), track fuel economy, and monitor the car's battery and other components. The app also has a handy Parking feature, which uses the diagnostic module's GPS to pinpoint where you parked so you can find it in a large lot. You can even attach photos of your parking space or add notes if you parked in a multi-level parking garage.
Verizon gave me a short demonstration of Hum installed in a Jeep Wrangler. The car's check engine light lit up when it started, and the Hum app displayed the diagnostic code that was causing it, along with a summary of the problem. The Roadside Assistance button on the speakerphone connected to an operator, who then connected us to a mechanic to explain the meaning of the code. It was a minor manifold problem that didn't pose an urgent problem for the car, and could be fixed later. Both the roadside assistance operator and the Parking feature on the app accurately located the car through the connected GPS. The GPS can also be used if the car is stolen, and the app had instructions on what to do if that happens.
Hum draws some obvious comparisons with OnStar, which I reviewed earlier this year. However, Hum is much more focused on maintenance and roadside assistance, with very little emphasis on general information or entertainment arrangements, like OnStar's concierge service. Because it's an aftermarket plug-in product, it also doesn't offer the remote access features of OnStar built into current GM vehicles.
However, Hum is also much less expensive than OnStar, available for $14.99 per month with equipment included (for the first vehicle; additional vehicles are $12.99) compared with OnStar's $20 Protection, $25 Security, and $35 Guidance plans. It's not as feature-filled as OnStar, but it doesn't try to be, and it could be an economical alternative to the more prominent service for users who simply want assistance, maintenance, and security without the extra convenience features.
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