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OK, so you you can’t remotely drive a BMW with a phone like James Bond does in “Tomorrow Never Dies,” but there are plenty of real apps that will let you take control of your car and its tech with little more than your smartphone and a data connection. From beaming destinations to your Toyota’s navigation system with Entune to remotely unlocking your doors with GM’s OnStar RemoteLink, we’ve rounded up a few of the best car-controlling apps.
OnStar RemoteLink (Android, iOS, BlackBerry)
When many people think about General Motors’ OnStar telematics service, they think about the little blue button on the rearview mirror, but that’s only one part of the picture. The other half is the sweet OnStar Remote Link. With this app, you can remotely lock and unlock your doors, start or stop your vehicle’s engine, and honk the horn and flash the lights to help you locate your ride in a crowded parking lot. A vehicle finder shows you where your car is on a map. You can also search for destinations and send them to your car’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 from the app. Pair the app with aand you can also monitor the RE-EV’s battery level and adjust your charging schedule.
Toyota Entune (Android, iOS)
With Bing built-in, Toyota’s Entune app lets search for and save destinations on your phone and access them upon returning to your car. Further in-dash integration with Bing search allows you to check the Web using your smartphone’s data connection for local destinations that may not be in the car’s onboard database.
The OpenTable app and MovieTickets.com integration let you make reservations at local restaurants and order movie tickets, respectively, from your car’s dashboard. iHeartRadio lets you stream local radio stations from around the world, and Pandora Radio allows you to stream algorithm-generated stations based on your favorite songs and artists.
Toyota’s Prius Plug-in’s Entune system is unique in that it unlocks the ability to manage the vehicle’s charging, activate remote climate controls, and locate your vehicle on a map.
BMW Connected and Mini Connected (iOS)
In many ways, the BMW and Mini Connected iOS apps are rebranded versions of the same app with a few differences that are unique to the two marquees. However, those 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, listen to news and Web radio through your car’s speakers, send Google Maps destinations to your car’s navigation system, continue navigating on foot once you’ve parked your car, and check in through Foursquare once you get there.
The Mini Connected version has a few unique features including a Dynamic Music mode that generates music based on your driving style and behaviors. Drive faster to add to the song, activate your turn signal to add a cymbal to the mix. There’s also a sort of amusing, kind of annoying Mission Control feature that gives your vehicle’s various systems personalities and chatty voices.
Nissan Leaf app (Android, iOS)
Managing your battery is of the utmost importance for a fully electric vehicle like the , so Nissan has equipped every Leaf with its Carwings telematics connection and gives drivers access to a free Nissan Leaf app to interface with that connection. Using the Nissan Leaf app, users can check their battery state and estimated driving range, schedule charging times to take advantage of the best electrical rates, or override a charging schedule for immediate charging.
Since using the climate control system has a significant effect on the Leaf’s range, users can also activate or schedule the system to operate remotely, preheating or cooling the vehicle using power from the grid.
Hyundai Blue Link (Android, iOS)
Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system is pretty new — only making an appearance on seven of the automaker’s current lineup of 14 vehicles — but its still fairly fully featured. From the app, users can honk their Hyundai’s horn, lock and unlock its doors, remotely start the engine, and flash the headlamps. You can also search for points of interest for saving and transferring to your car’s turn-by-turn navigation system.
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