Chevy and GM recently updated its OnStar RemoteLink app (2.0) with a new streamlined design and additional features. After a week of using the app in many different conditions, we have found that the Chevy OnStar RemoteLink is the best ever. It is easy to use and has advanced features to meet most drivers’ needs.
The new design requires less swiping through pages. The background color has been changed from blue to white, making it easier to read. All the major functions appear on the home page of the app– Key Fob, Vehicle Status, Map, 4G LTE Hotspot, Hands-Free Calling OnStar phone number and Preferred Dealer. Our favorite features of the app are remote start and vehicle locator.
Where Oh Where is Did I Park My Car?
To test out the vehicle locator function we parked the Volt in huge lot at the Rose Bowl because we frequently forget where we park at large venues such as stadiums, amusement parks or shopping malls.
We had two ways to find the Volt, vehicle locator and sounding the horn and lights when nearby. The Locator function displayed where the car was in the parking lot, with an aerial view, that made the car easy to locate.
Some OBDII devices and separate smartphone vehicle locator apps enable finding a vehicle within in 100 feet or require pinning the parking location within the app. The OnStar vehicle locator function is much more accurate and easier. We contacted OnStar media rep, Stuart Fowle to find out accurate the vehicle locator is.
“We don’t make a specific accuracy claim because there are many factors involved with GPS location, like whether the car has a direct path in the sky to a satellite. In most cases the location will be accurate to a far less than 100 feet—more like a matter of a few meters, as is the norm with any GPS-connected device. If you’re looking for your car in a crowded parking lot, 100 feet off wouldn’t be very helpful!” wrote Fowle in an email.
If you are not able to find the car from the map on the app, if the parking lot is crowded, if you can’t see you car in the dark or crowded by people or cars, honking the horn and flashing the lights with the app or the key fob will pinpoint the car. When we were bout two football fields away from the car we tapped the horn/lights function in the app and were able to find the car.
The locator function also showed that the car was in the Whole Foods building when it was underground, but not the exact parking space. When you tap on the car on the map it shows you an approximate address, if you forget what store you parked your car at this feature would be valuable.
It was also fun when the company delivered the Volt to see where the driver was on his way to drop it off. We could see the route they took an that they stopped at Shell gas station a few blocks away, thus realizing that delivery to the AUTO Car News’ garage was coming soon.
Form the mapping section, you can send a destination from the OnStar RemoteLink app to the navigation system. We found it was easier to call an OnStar live advisor who sent the destination to the car without someone having to type in an address on a smartphone screen.
Remote Start Details
We tested the remote start while a Chevy Volt was in the garage, it did not work, because the antenna needs a clear view of the sky. We could not tell if the remote start worked at the Rose Bowl, parking lot. Stuart Fowle, was nice enough to explain why.
He suspects that we were unable to tell if the Volt started, because we tapped the remote start function more than 10 minutes before we got to the car. It turns itself off after 10 minutes to ensure no one leaves their car running for an extended period of time. You can do two remote starts in a row before you’re required to start the car with the key.
Testing the Remote Start function inside the car with the fob inside didn’t work either and was a natural mistake.
Remote functions get locked out when the key is in the ignition or in the case of a push-button start, when the key is detected in the vehicle. Allowing remote start to happen when the vehicle is running could damage the starter motor and it’s assumed that if you’re in the car, you don’t need remote features, so those functions don’t work for safety and durability’s sake.
At a half of a block away from the Chevy Volt parked on a city street, we were able to remote start the car through the app which means the cooling was on, not the motor. The yellow lights were on and the fan was blowing.
Remote start will heat/cool the cabin to whatever settings were in place when the car was turned off. So for example, if you got out of the car at 66 degrees with air conditioning on, that is what remote start will do. A few functions depend on the specific vehicle; Some of GM cars are programmed to turn the heated seats and rear defroster on if the ambient temperature is below 45 degrees.
The remote app is not as fast as the key fob which is instant. Times ranges from a few seconds to twenty seconds to implement.
In cold or extreme weather the remote start is a very popular feature.
There are few things we needed to do while the using the app, that were not obvious unless you read the screen. In some screens, you have to swipe down the screen (called “Pull to refresh) to refresh the data, or you get the last reading. This is most important with fuel and charging status. The feature was probably implemented to save data usage on the phone, if it is not contacting OnStar every time the app page appears.
On an Android phone, we keep looking for OnStar alphabetized as the letter “O” on app listing. The app is alphabetized in apps as “R” for “RemoteLink.”
Family Locator Service
We were unable to test the family locator service, however, since vehicle locator worked well, the family locator service should work also. Family Link allows parents and family members to check the OnStar website to view where the car is on the map or receive email/texts alerts with your car’s location at certain times.
The OnStar RemoteLink app shows vehicle status such as how much gas in the tank, oil quality and tire pressure. The tire pressure fluctuated at different times of days and temperatures. For the Chevy Volt (we assume EV Spark also) seeing the status of the charge and setting alerts was indispensable in the charging process. One day, it rained and we did not have to walk out in the rain to see if the electric charge was complete. The app allows electric car owners to set the preferred charge times and also send text or email alerts to remind the driver to charge the car or notify when the charge is complete or interrupted.
The oil life was fine the whole time we used the Chevy Volt.
Wi-Fi Hotspot Settings
OnStar 4G LTE, RemoteLink with Wi-Fi hotspot paid data plan users on Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac can see how much data they used and how much is left on their plan as well as manage their Wi-Fi hotspot settings and password. Of course we used a lot data testing the Wi-Fi hotspot service on the road and all over the place, chalking up almost one gigabyte of data in one week.
In order fo the OnStar app to work, you much sign in with an email address and password. Some functions such as remote start and vehicle locator require a pin for activation.
Access to OnStar Account
The updated app offers more information about OnStar accounts, that previously were only available online via speaking to live person on the phone.
The Future of OnStar RemoteLink
Last year, Fowle showed AUTO Connected Car that OnStar is working on smartwatch apps, that work with a smartphone. Since there are very few smartwatch owners right now, the feature is not absolutely necessary, yet.
More About OnStar RemoteLink
Free 4 Five Years
The OnStar Basic Plan is available for 5 years from the date of delivery of an eligible, new 2015 Model Year vehicles and is transferable. The OnStar Basic Plan includes OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics, Dealer Maintenance Notification, and access to RemoteLink Key Fob Services. The OnStar Basic Plan does not include any Emergency Services, Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Assistance, live Advisor service, or Hands-Free Calling from the onboard OnStar device.
Pre-owned GM vehicle owners can get 3 months free of Onstar service to try it out.
Chevy and GM are unique in that their OnStar apps support low-cost economy cars on up to luxury cars. Other automakers’ apps may only be for a few models with high-end features.
All in all, the OnStar RemoteLink app worked well, in many conditions, was easy and fun to use and did everything it was supposed to do.