Awareness! The Headphone App – audio safety at its finest

Have you ever been so engrossed in your music you've missed your train or tube stop? And how many of you can put your hands up to riding a bike while

Have you ever been so engrossed in your music you've missed your train or tube stop? And how many of you can put your hands up to riding a bike while wearing headphones? You know you shouldn't be cycling and nodding along to the latest Linkin Park album, and yet you still do it, don't you? But there can be serious repercussions, a safety breach if you will, for isolating yourself from the outside world for the sake of blaring audio.

The one in, one out method is a good fallback plan, but also one that is incredibly vexing. Enter Awareness! The Headphone App. Utilising iOS4's multitasking skills, the app cleverly uses the iPhone's built-in microphone (or microphone equipped headset for the iPod Touch) allowing you to hear the outside world without interrupting the music or forcing you to keep it at a volume that's so low you can hear yourself breathing.

As soon as any background noise exceeds a set level, this triggers the app to deliver it to your headphones. The microphone trigger level can be adjusted automatically or manually for precise control over the amount of external sound you want coming through. And it doesn't just cater to the music, either - games, videos and audiobooks are also compatible.

Not only does this mean no longer having to take headphones out or pause music to have a conversation, but means it's also more likely you'll avoid that screaming cyclist whose path you're about to wander across, the frantic horn of a driver who's moments away from helping you meet your maker, those all important 'station closed' train announcements and perhaps now you won't miss those crucial conversations at work because everyone assumes you can hear when in actual fact you're secretly listening to Girls Aloud.

It doesn't just throw in a loud mix of surrounding noises and your music either; it actively listens for sounds that exceed the level of normal background noise and automatically lowers the music, bringing in the ambient noise when necessary. So you might not be able to hear the general hustle and bustle of the roads, but you will most certainly hear the honking truck driver shouting at you to get out the way.

And it actually works. This isn't just one of those overstated apps, claiming to be something it isn't. And while it may not be able to discriminate between important and irrelevant, it's a nifty alternative to having to keep your music at a miserably low volume to avoid headphone oblivion.

And it will only set you back £1.79. That's not a lot to pay for complete piece of mind, wouldn't you agree?

iPhone, £1.79, App Store

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