Cars

GM Makes OnStar's Smartphone Control Standard

GM owners can turn their smartphone into a car key for free.

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GM has announced that owners of new 2014 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles will get five years free access to OnStar's smartphone app. Even if the owner chooses not to sign up for other OnStar services, it'll still be free to use the app to unlock doors, start the car, and honk the horn.

RemoteLink first debuted on the Chevy Volt back in 2010. Since then, it's become one of the more popular components of OnStar's telematics suite. According to GM, the app has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times, and has more than 320,000 regular users.

"Customers expect the connection to their vehicle to be available anywhere they go and anytime they want to use it," said Alan Batey, GM's VP of US sales and service.

As countless OnStar commercials have shown, the benefits of a smartphone app for a remote start or key unlock are numerous. Since the phone doesn't have to be within any particular distance of the vehicle, it's possible to start the car in an airport parking lot while the plane is still taxiing. Or you can unlock the doors even if your key is inside the car.

The app also makes things easier for GM. According to the company, vehicle owners request remote door unlock through OnStar 60,000 times each month. Giving customers the ability to unlock their car through a smartphone cuts down on those calls.

The five year free RemoteLink trial begins as soon as a new car is sold. In addition, customers who pay for higher levels of OnStar coverage get access to vehicle diagnostics and turn-by-turn directions, depending on their plan.