Cardo has often been at the frontline of innovation when it comes to motorcycle communication systems. Now, the company is again breaking new ground—but not necessarily in a way riders expected or wanted.
Cardo Systems recently introduced the Cardo Packtalk Custom communicator, the first motorcycle communicator to feature subscription plans. You can now pay more each month to unlock additional features for your comms system.
The base Cardo Packtalk Custom model retails for $269.95, a lower price point than their other models. Like most other systems by the company, the waterproof communicator can connect with up to 15 riders within a one-mile radius and has 40mm HD speakers.
It can be updated wirelessly and the battery is claimed to last 13 hours with fast charging. The Packtalk Custom also has music streaming and an FM radio.
But if you want anything more, you’ll have to pay up.
The Packtalk Custom features three different tiers of subscription packages, including:
- Silver ($2.99 monthly/$19.99 annual): Unlocks music sharing, audio profiles, and speed dialing.
- Gold ($4.99 monthly/$29.99 annual): Unlocks the Silver package, plus second channel connection and Universal Bluetooth Intercom.
- Platinum ($6.99 monthly/$39.99 annual): Unlocks the previous packages, plus eco mode and voice commands.
Needless to say, many riders were confused and even upset by Cardo’s news. So much so, in fact, that Cardo felt the need to address some of their concerns separately.
To be clear, Cardo isn’t moving completely to a subscription-based service—at least as far as we know. The previous Cardo models are still available and don’t have any subscription packages.
For the time being, only the new Packtalk Custom lets you pay extra for additional features. Cardo claims the product was made to give riders more flexibility and freedom in their choice of communicators.
Never use music sharing or any other goodies? Just use the basic feature package. The Packtalk Custom is still a functional, albeit stripped-down motorcycle communicator.
Is This What We Wanted?
That’s all well and good, but the introduction of subscription-based motorcycle communicators is nonetheless concerning. Then again, it was probably inevitable—these days you subscribe for coffee, food, heated seats in your car…
But in this case, the move doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense for several reasons.
First of all, the older Cardo devices offer all the features of the subscription packages without you paying extra. What’s the incentive to buy the Packtalk Custom? Could it be the lower price?
The Packtalk Custom’s $296.95 price point is lower than the Edge ($389.95), Neo ($349.95), or even the Slim model’s ($339.95). But you also don’t get very much bang for your buck.
Voice operation is the most glaring example. It’s a basic feature of any modern moto communicator and every Cardo device offers it by default—except Packtalk Custom.
If you want voice operation, you’ll have to buy the Platinum package. Even at its cheapest, that will bump up the device’s final price to around $310. And you get to pay $39.99 every year to keep voice controls on.
A Packtalk Custom plus three years of Platinum subscription will cost you a whopping $389.92, the same cost as the premium Packtalk Edge. Might as well save the difference and purchase the Slim model.
And although the old models are still available, who knows how long they will stay on the shelves. We’ve seen this play out with so many products. As soon as the subscription model gains even a bit of traction, the non-subscription products suddenly vanish like they never existed.
Finally, Cardo says the Packtalk Custom was designed in response to riders’ feedback and their “wants and needs.” To our knowledge, riders were asking for an inexpensive communicator that focuses on communication—not getting charged for extra features.
We suppose no one is forcing you to buy the subscription packages. In the end, Cardo seems to only be following the spirit of the times. But perhaps it might sometimes be better to go against the grain.