If your vehicle is older than 2010, there’s a good chance it lacks a lot of modern “smart” features that most cars today have, like tracking, assistance with parking and braking and an interactive helper in the vein of OnStar. Back in 2015, Verizon launched their Verizon Vehicle initiative, eventually renamed to “Hum” to help give these older vehicles just some of the smarts of their newer brethren. The basic Hum kit consists of a tracking and telematics device with a modem attached, a smart Bluetooth speaker and a companion smartphone app. Service for Hum cost $15 per month and is separate from any other bills you paid to Verizon, since it’s available to non-customers. Compatible with over 150 million of the cars on the road today, Hum’s low pricing and the promise of bringing smart functions to older vehicles makes it a little puzzling that it’s not doing a bit better.
Introduced in August of 2015, it didn’t take Hum long to catch a price drop, going down to $10 per month, but with upfront fees for the equipment and activation being $50 and $20 respectively. This brings a two-year Hum agreement’s total price down from $360 to $310, despite the increased upfront costs. Some have said that the price drop is due to Hum not finding a decent foothold in the consumer world, but Verizon declined to comment on the matter. A representative did say that Verizon was beginning to see Hum really take off and they’ve been receiving a great deal of consumer feedback on the device and the service.
While the consumer telematics space is fairly crowded, it’s an area that’s rather unfriendly to the competition. Most customers that are in on the market got the system with their car and, in some cases, pay for their subscription with their car payment. Those whose vehicles did not come with a system from OnStar, the manufacturer or any other players normally flock to OnStar, being the dominant force in the space. This leaves Hum in an awkward predicament. In order to compete, Verizon will have to differentiate Hum and offer a richer feature set than other competition, in addition to simply undercutting them in price; with telematics being a luxury in the first place, most consumers will look at features and usability long before they’ll look at price.