In-car technology has been steadily improving, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto paving the way for anyone who appreciates a dashboard full of gadgets and goodies. Not all of us are lucky enough to have cars with these options, however.
So what’s a “dumb” car driver to do?
When many people think of the General Motors OnStar telematics service, they think of the little blue button on the rearview mirror, but that’s only part of the picture.
The other half is a nice remote OnStar link. With these apps, you can remotely lock and unlock your doors, start or stop your car’s engine, and honk and flash your headlights to help you locate your ride in a crowded parking lot. The vehicle finder shows you where your vehicle is on a map. You can also search for destinations and send them to your vehicle’s OnStar system for turn-by-turn navigation.
When used with a gasoline powered vehicle, you can view your fuel levels and monitor your tire pressure in the app. Pair the app with a Chevrolet Volt and you can also monitor the RE-EV’s battery level and adjust its charging schedule.
Toyota Entune (Android, iOS)
With integrated Bing, Toyota’s Entune app allows you to search and save destinations on your phone and access them when you return to your car. Another in-dash integration with Bing Search allows you to search the web via your smartphone’s data connection for local destinations that may not be in the vehicle’s onboard database.
BMW Connected and Mini Connected (iOS)
In many ways, the BMW and Mini Connected iOS apps are rebranded versions of the same app with some differences unique to the two brands. However, these differences are significant enough that I don’t feel like I’m cheating by counting them twice.
Both apps let you access Facebook and Twitter data from your dashboard, hear news and web radio through your car’s speakers, send Google Maps destinations to your car’s navigation system, navigate on foot after parking your car, and check in to Foursquare , once you get there.