Intercom trailblazers Cardo are introducing the first subscription-based helmet comms system in a step that’s already proving controversial.
Their new unit is called the Packtalk Custom and has the same engine as the existing Packtalk Neo, but you’ll need to pay an annual or monthly subscription if you want it to do everything a Packtalk Neo does.
The Packtalk Custom has downgraded speakers, and costs £68 less than the Neo.
So far, so normal.
The big difference is Cardo has switched off a bunch of the Neo’s features when creating the Packtalk Custom.
And if people want to switch those features back on it’ll cost them an extra annual or monthly subscription. In reality, by the time you’ve paid for six months you’ll have paid as much as an annual sub would have cost.
So for £254 you get a Mesh-only intercom that will only use its Bluetooth capability to connect to your phone.
Pay for a Silver subscription package and you’ll get to share your music with another Cardo’d-up rider, a selection of audio profiles and a speed dial function that lets you easily call your favourite people. That’ll cost another €2.99 a month, or €19.99 for the year.
Upgrading to a Gold sub opens up the Bluetooth intercom function, which is the only way to hook up with non-Cardo riders. You’ll also now be able to connect two phones to your comms unit. This sub will be €4.99 a month or €29.99 for the year.
The top package, Platinum, gives people what Cardo describes as “all the bells and whistles”. This means you’ll get the Cardo Natural Voice function that makes the unit respond to your voice commands, as well as a battery-saving Eco mode. For that, you’ll be stumping an extra €6.99 a month or €39.99 for the year.
The Gold and Platinum packs also include all the features from the lower-tier packages.
At current prices and Euro-pound exchange rates buying a Packtalk Custom and two annual Platinum subscriptions would add up to £324.
As things stand, for £322 you could buy the Neo with all the features unlocked and also have the superior JBL speakers.
The move to a subs model echoes what’s happening elsewhere in the car and motorcycle industries and Cardo say it has “unlocked the power of personalisation”.
Cardo chief executive officer Alon Lumbroso is quoted in the release as saying: “We’re extremely proud to continue to drive the industry forward with new trailblazing innovations and industry-firsts like the Packtalk Custom.”
The response on social media to Cardo’s announcement, however, suggests others in the industry may wish to take stock before heading off down the trail blazed by Cardo.
Here at Sportsbikeshop we know from experience with In&Motion airbags how much hostility there is among many riders towards the idea of paying for tech on a subscription basis - and it seems Cardo are copping some flak of their own now.
Cardo posted a video on their Facebook page, explaining the essentials of the Packtalk Custom on Friday 10 March, and inviting questions about it.
The 11 responses in the first six hours were overwhelmingly negative about the subs idea. One response gives a fair flavour of the backlash: “While I love my Cardo, I'll move to another com platform rather than be held hostage with a subscription.”
We guess only time will tell whether Cardo have played a blinder or made a bit of a blunder.