Waiting for Apple Car Key? Here Are 14 Apps to Control Your Car Right Now

Using an Phone to Unlock Car with an App Credit: serdjophoto / Shutterstock
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Apple introduced a number of new features in iOS 14, including a new feature that will let you use your iPhone as the key for your vehicle. But don’t expect it to work for your existing vehicle. As of right now, Car Key will only work with the 2021 BMW 5 Series.

While we can expect many other car companies to follow suit, just as they did with CarPlay, it’s unclear whether manufacturers will be able to upgrade existing vehicles to support this useful feature or will require specific hardware.

So, What About the Rest of Us?

Well, there’s no easy way to say this. Unless you have a semi-smart car, you’re probably out of luck. However, if you have a car that supports it, there may be an app for that!

Many newer vehicles are leveraging wireless connectivity to allow you to start your vehicle, locate it, unlock it, and more. Just keep in mind, many also require a paid subscription service. While most subscriptions are hundreds of dollars a year, most are included as a free trial for a period of time, similar to satellite radio.

How Do I Know If My Car Has an App?

You’ll probably need to check your owner’s manual, do a quick online search, or download an app to see if it works. Usually higher trim levels are the only ones that are supported, but it’s worth checking out.

Keep in mind, certain models of vehicles may not support all of the features listed for a particular app. But let’s take a quick peek at some of the vehicle manufacturers with apps and what they can do.

FordPass

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With the FordPass app, Ford vehicle owners can stay connected wherever life takes them; and with a 4.6 rating on the App Store, it’s one of the best-reviewed apps of its kind. The app also features FordPass Rewards™ which lets users earn and redeem points when purchasing new vehicles or maintaining their existing vehicles.

Key features of FordPass:

  1. Remote start/stop.
  2. Scheduled start.
  3. Lock and unlock doors.
  4. Locate vehicle.
  5. Track fuel levels, tire pressure, oil life.
  6. Send destination to the car’s navigation system.
  7. Activate panic alarm.
  8. Service scheduling.
  9. Request roadside assistance.
  10. Apple Watch support.

Tesla

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With just under 4 stars on the App Store, leave it to Tesla to up the game, while not as impressive as Ford’s rating, it still shows that Tesla has what it takes despite being newer to the automotive industry.

Tesla’s app is loaded with features and is—in my opinion—one of the best looking car apps available. Its interface is modern, stylish, and easy to navigate. Oh, did I mention you can “summon” your vehicle? Yeah, that’s pretty cool. But… lack of Apple Watch support is a little odd.

Key features of the Tesla app:

  1. Remote… start? The fact is, being an electric car, there isn’t really anything to “start.” Instead, you’re really just cooling or heating your vehicle.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate and track vehicle.
  4. Vent or close roof.
  5. Activate panic alarm.
  6. Summon vehicle from garage or parking space.
  7. Get system status including charge level.
  8. Control media within vehicle.
  9. Perform vehicle software updates.

Hyundai Blue Link

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I never thought I’d own a Hyundai, especially as a big car fanatic. Then I grew up and became semi-reasonable, and Hyundai became a better brand—especially in regard to their high-end trims. These fully-loaded trims often include Hyundai’s Blue Link system. In addition to an app, Blue Link also activates certain features on the car itself.

Because I now own two Hyundai vehicles (both equipped with Blue Link), I have a more hands-on experience with these apps than others (although I have used Ford Sync and Mercedes MBrace in the past). So far it’s been a love/hate relationship, but the app has (slowly) been improving and has lots of functionality.

Key features of Hyundai Blue Link:

  1. Remote start/stop (with four customizable climate presets).
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle and geofencing (valet, speed, and curfew alerts).
  4. Remote engine immobilization (for stolen vehicles).
  5. Send destination to car’s navigation system.
  6. Activate panic alarm.
  7. System status, including low tire pressure or fuel.
  8. Service scheduling.
  9. Request roadside assistance.
  10. Apple Watch support.

Mercedes me

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Did you know, Steve Jobs was known for parking his Mercedes in the handicapped parking spaces at Apple headquarters? Anyway, it’s no secret that Mercedes-Benz is one of the best automakers on the planet. They’re constantly ahead of the pack and always looking to bring new technology to their vehicles before everyone else. So naturally, they have an app for that.

Key features of Mercedes me:

  1. Remote start.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle.
  4. Send destination to the car’s navigation system.
  5. Activate panic alarm.
  6. Service scheduling.
  7. Request roadside assistance.
  8. Apple Watch support.

HondaLink

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If you’re driving a Honda, you’ll want to check out the HondaLink app which allows all of the features you’ve come to expect so far; but, it doesn’t have Apple Watch support.

Key features of HondaLink:

  1. Remote start/stop
  2. Lock and unlock doors
  3. Locate vehicle.
  4. Track fuel levels, tire pressure, and oil life
  5. Send destination to car’s navigation system.
  6. Activate panic alarm.
  7. Service scheduling.

Toyota

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Toyota offers an app simply called Toyota, although some vehicles may be compatible with the Toyota Entune app instead.

Key features of the Toyota app:

  1. Remote start/stop. (Doesn’t allow remote climate control changes).
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle.
  4. Send destination to car’s navigation system.
  5. Activate panic alarm.
  6. Guest driver profiles.
  7. Driver score.
  8. Service alerts.
  9. Request roadside assistance.
  10. Apple Watch support

myAudi

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Audi makes modern-looking vehicles and has a simple, modern app called myAudi to control supported vehicles. While it’s not really different than the majority of connected car apps, it does have a cool feature when sending navigation information to your car, that includes walking instructions for how to get to and from your vehicle.

The app doesn’t list remote start/stop as an option, but it does list climate control, so it more than likely will let you start your vehicle as well.

Key features of myAudi:

  1. Remote start (unconfirmed).
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle and geofence alerts (valet and speed).
  4. Stolen vehicle locator.
  5. System status (very detailed and includes windows, lights, fuel, etc.).
  6. Service scheduling.
  7. Apple Watch support.

Uconnect (for Dodge, Jeep, and Similar)

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Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler vehicles all seem to share the Uconnect app, it’s a strange choice, but it definitely standardizes things across the company’s various brands. One cool feature of Uconnect, is that it can be part of your SiriusXM subscription; although overall, it is on the more simple side of things. Of course, simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the 4.5 App Store rating seems to agree.

Key features of Uconnect:

  1. Remote start/“cancel.”
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle and geofence alerts.
  4. Activate panic alarm.
  5. System status (fuel, mileage, and tire pressure).
  6. Send destination to vehicle’s navigation system.
  7. Apple Watch support.

myChevrolet

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Chevy did something right because this app has a 4.9 App Store rating. Like Uconnect, the app is lacking some features, and it’s not really pretty to look at; but, if it can get almost 5 stars, it probably doesn’t matter.

Key features of myChevrolet:

  1. Remote start/stop.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. OnStar Support.
  4. Activate panic alarm.
  5. System status (fuel, oil life, and tire pressure).
  6. Apple Watch Support.

NissanConnect Services (NCS)

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If you own a Nissan, maybe don’t get your hopes up. There are two apps (one is for older vehicles) that you can download, but neither have the best reviews. That being said, it’s pretty normal for these apps to have less than stellar reviews with how new connected vehicles are to the market.

Key features of NissanConnect Services (NCS):

  1. Remote start/stop.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Activate panic alarm.
  4. System status (fuel, doors, and tire pressure).
  5. Apple Watch support.

Volkswagen Car-Net

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The Car-Net app from Volkswagen holds a 4.4 star rating on the App Store and has a variety of status alerts and features. While it doesn’t have an Apple Watch app, it does a great job putting most of its features front-and-center. In addition, you can purchase a subscription plan right from the app itself, making it easy to subscribe and start using the app right away. One more thing: it supports Siri.

Key features of Volkswagen CarNet:

  1. Remote start/stop.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle with geofencing features.
  4. Activate panic alarm.
  5. Send destination to vehicle’s navigation system.
  6. A wide variety of system status information and alerts.
  7. Service scheduling.
  8. Siri support.

MySubaru

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Is it just me, or do car companies like to throw the word “my” in front of their name? Regardless, here’s another connected car app that has the word “my” in its name, but also doesn’t have the best reviews. MySubaru also doesn’t have a lot of features; but hey, it gets the job done.

Key features of MySubaru:

  1. Remote start.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Locate vehicle.
  4. Activate panic alarm.
  5. Vehicle health information.
  6. Service scheduling.
  7. Roadside assistance.

BMW Connected

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While upcoming BMWs will have Car Key support, current owners may be able to use the BMW Connected app. But, I’m not going to sugarcoat this: It has pretty awful reviews. To be fair, a lot of car apps don’t have the best reviews, but as of writing the Connected app has 2.1 stars (ouch).

The poor reviews are kind of a mixed bag. On one hand the app sounds like it has a lot of functionality and can be very good. In fact, it’s one of the better-looking apps of its kind. The poor reviews seem to be aimed at glitches and bugs within the app.

So it seems like BMW could have a pretty amazing app, if it… er… worked. But if and when they ever fix these issues, it looks like it could be a real winner.

Key features of BMW Connected:

  1. Remote start/stop.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Support for BMW Digital Key.
  4. Locate vehicle.
  5. Send destination to car’s navigation system
  6. Activate panic alarm.
  7. System status, including fuel level and range.
  8. Service scheduling.
  9. Request roadside assistance.
  10. Apple Watch support.

MyMazda

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There’s that word “my” again, and MyMazda also doesn’t have the greatest reviews. That being said, the app has a very attractive interface, and with a little work (and some more functionality) they might have a solid app for future vehicles.

Key features of MyMazda:

  1. Remote start/stop.
  2. Lock and unlock doors.
  3. Vehicle locator.
  4. Vehicle status information.
  5. Service scheduling.
  6. Roadside assistance.

At the end of the day, there are dozens of apps featuring connected services for many vehicles from many different brands. The ones I covered are just a few, and many brands are subsidies of others (i.e. Ford has Lincoln, Hyundai is related to Kia and Genesis, etc…). Brands like Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, GMC, Fiat, etc. might all offer their own apps and services as well. If you’re not sure if your vehicle has an app, check the manual, search the App Store or the Web, or just call the vehicle dealership for more information.

You may have noticed that a lot of these apps are very limited or have low ratings. When Apple launches Car Key this Fall, hopefully we will see other car companies adopt it and incorporate it into their new vehicles and apps. I would love to see a Car app similar to the Home app that provides a standard interface for all manufacturers, but I’m guessing that isn’t something we’ll be getting this year.

Do you have an Internet-connected car? Do you have one of the services listed in this article? If so, let us know what you think and which features you’d like to see added in the future. You can post your thoughts in the comments section or on social media. Thank you for reading!

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