Reminder: Tesla’s mobile app has an incredible list of features, years ahead of the competition

    There’s been some recent announcements in the auto industry with some upcoming vehicles that received plenty of coverage (looking at you BMW and Apple Car Key).

    The glowing coverage of unlocking your vehicle using your phone, seems to be breaking news to many, however I think it’s important to put some context around these announcements.

    Using your the phone in your pocket to unlock your car, is a feature that’s been available on Tesla’s for more than 5 years now.

    Wile some ICE vehicles have had keyfobs that allows owners to remotely start their ICE engines, this is an entirely different game.

    Leveraging their software strengths, combined with on-board cellular connectivity, Tesla’s mobile app offers remote control over your vehicle like never before.

    Available for iPhone or Android, below is a list of the features the Tesla App has to offer:

    Phone Key

    Keyless Driving
    Once your phone is added as a key, you simply walk up, open the door handle and get it. By the time you sit down, the car has detected your presence (using a pressure sensor in the seat). Put your foot on the brake, change into to Drive or Reverse and you’re away.

    This ability to walk up, get in and drive away so rapidly, is seriously one of the most under-appreciated features of a Tesla.

    Car Access 
    You can add and remove additional drivers at any time from your Tesla Account. Those driver’s will get a login and will use the Tesla app to access your vehicle, just like you do.

    Your additional driver will have access to all Tesla app features except requesting Roadside Assistance and purchasing upgrades.

    Right now Tesla support up to 5 additional drivers.


    The offers the ability to turn on and off the climate controls in your car remotely. This is particularly handy on a cold winter morning, or a hot summer’s afternoon.

    Not only can see the current cabin temperature, but you can set your desired temperature (down to the 0.5 degree). Naturally that wasn’t enough for Tesla, so they went and added the ability to defrost your windscreen, turn on and off your seat heaters.  

    This works great when you’re about to jump in your car at the start of the day, or ahead of leaving work, so the car to be more comfortable before you get it.


    Going much further than car on and off, the Controls section of the app enables you to flash your lights or honk the horn to find your vehicle when parked. This also works great to scare away anyone getting closer than you’d like to your vehicle.

    Open Frunk/Trunk
    When you’re approaching the car with groceries, you’ll need to open the frunk or trunk and you can do this with a couple of taps in the app. This works instantly and on of my most used features of the app.

    In relation to the frunk, the only other way to open it, is getting into the car, then using the touchscreen to open it, so the app is much more convenient when you’re outside the vehicle.

    Vent windows
    If you spot the internal temperature of the car getting hotter than you’d like, you can vent the windows with the tap of a button.

    Many cars have this feature by using a combination of button presses or holds on the keyfob, so Tesla is just taking a digital approach to the same use case.

    If you have the Homelink hardware in your Tesla, and own the Full Self Driving upgrade, then you can use a Homelink button in the app to raise and lower your garage door.

    Valet Mode
    Restrict access to your car by hiding all personal data from your touchscreen, limiting maximum speed and performance and locking your front boot and glove compartment. 


    Most EVs now offer the ability to check the remaining charge but Tesla take that to an extreme. Tesla renders a model of your car (including your current wheels) in the app which changes based not the type of charger being used (home or Supercharger).

    You can elect to start or stop charging, remotely open the charging port and adjust the amount you’d like to recharge to. Often daily driving will be 80-90% of the capacity to extend the life of the battery, but where you have a long trip coming up, you can increase this 100% right from the app.

    The charging screen also provides a quick list of the closest Superchargers and nearby Destination chargers. Tapping on any of these, sends the GPS co-ordinates to the navigation in the car, so then next time you get in, it’ll take you right there.

    In the case of the Superchargers (run by Tesla) these also display how many are currently available.

    Range Status
    The app enables you to quickly check the current range you have remaining. For those that don’t drive, or charge every day, this can be really helpful when planning your next charging session.  


    Whether it’s your bad memory of where you parked, or ensuring your car can never be stolen, the constant reporting of the car’s GPS location to the app is incredibly valuable.

    The location screen shows you which direction the car is travelling and how fast. You also get the ability to switch between satellite and road maps. Better yet, you can tap directions and navigate straight to the vehicle.

    This isn’t like an aftermarket GPS that can be thrown out the window, this is integrated into the car. Unfortunately, Insurance companies haven’t caught up with this computer on wheels yet, but stealing and hiding a Tesla is very close to impossible thanks to this feature.

    If you’re researching your next road trip, or weekend away, then you can share a location (from the browser, Google Maps etc) to the car. Tesla shows up as a share location.

    When you do this, your Tesla app will send the address to start navigation in your car.   

    Summon / Smart Summon

    Easily one of the most impressive features of the app, Summon lets you move the vehicle, with nobody inside. This really feels like you’re driving a really expensive, full-size remote control car.

    Originally designed to move your vehicle out of your garage or a tight parking space, the feature has evolved to now support much more.

    Smart Summon (FSD only) enables you to select a location and have the car drive to that location. Alternatively, you can have the care drive to your location, which uses the GPS in the phone to route the car to you.

    This feature is still in beta, but the fact this works at all is seriously impressive. When it works, you’ll see the car navigate out of a parking spot (forward or reverse), turn the wheel and drive to your selected location.

    My favourite use for this is in the rain, so you can remain undercover, wait for the car to come and collect you from across the carpark. There is no other car on the market that does this, period.


    If you decide you want to upgrade your car, you can do that right from the app. Your options will vary depending on the model you purchased, but these include the Full Self-Driving package, Premium Connectivity, an acceleration boost and even unlocking the rear seat heaters in the SR+ Model 3.

    The process is incredibly simple and the transactions can be made, right within the app. These feature purchases are available in your car just seconds after purchasing.

    OTA Software Updates
    Push notifications through the Tesla app will alert you that a new software update is available for download and then install. As long as your car is connected to WiFi, you can update your car, right from your phone.

    When you next enter your car, you’ll see the latest release notes on the screen to let you know what’s changed.


    Schedule Service
    Schedule a service appointment for your car, upload information and pictures and stay updated while your car is in service through the app or SMS updates  

    Review and Pay for Service
    This feature lets customers view and approve their service estimates, as well as review and pay their final invoices from directly within the app.

    Review your Service History
    See a record of your service visits and any associated invoices all in one place 

    Loot Box

    Tesla offers one of the best referral programs I’ve been a part of. Each time someone uses your referral link to purchase a Tesla product, you receive rewards. Often that is in the form of free Supercharging credits and in Australia that is 1,500 each for the buyer and referrer.

    The Loot Box section of the mobile app, allows Tesla owners to check how many km of free driving your have remaining. Each time you charge at a Supercharger, the remaining km counts down.

    The expiration date is also shown, which enables you to plan how you’ll use the free driving. Given the current COVID19 restrictions it’s a little harder to use these.

    The Loot Box also provides a quick and easy way to check the details of your referrals, how many you have and to access your referral link ( to share with others.

    While we often think of Telsa vehicles, the Tesla app also includes their energy products. If you own a Tesla Powerwall, the Tesla App features:

    • Powerflow – Monitor your Powerwall and home energy use in real time and receive notifications about utility power outages.
    • Self-Powered – Track how much energy you generate with Powerwall, which reduces your reliance on utility grid power.
    • Energy Usage – View a live graph of your daily, weekly, monthly or annual energy generation and consumption for full visibility into your home’s energy ecosystem.
    • Backup History – View a history of utility power outages. You can track the day and duration of the outage.
    • Customise – Select between two modes: Self-Powered or Backup Only. By selecting Self-Powered mode, Powerwall will store solar during the day and power your home at night. You can also set a backup reserve. If you anticipate an outage due to bad weather, you can select Backup Only and reserve 100% of Powerwall if it occurs.

    While it is great to see the other automakers adding smarter features to their car and also mobile participants like Apple helping to bring vehicle keys into this decade, I think it’s important to recognise the market leader.

    Tesla has an incredible array of features in its app today which has come from years of improvements and community suggestions. I get a real sense that Tesla’s connected platform enables for a wide array of possibilities in the future.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


    1. Thanks Jason. My only query is in regards to opening the boot. You were talking about the frunk, but of course the boot is much easier, and the way it reads is that the app is required for opening the boot as well.
      You didn’t mention that if the phone is in your pocket, the boot opens with just a gentle press under the middle of the boot lid on the rubber section.
      That’s all I normally use at the shops etc., with no need to use the app at all unless I want the added room in the frunk.
      It is indeed a great App.


      • Nice review but “years ahead of the competition” no way. The MercedesMe app does most of this and some other things as as well for both Mercedes electric and ICE cars. Has done for some time also. There seems to be a misconception that Tesla is the first with just about everything. I even read an article the other day saying a 2020 Tesla was the first car to feature USB-C ports. Sorry my wife’s A-Class from 2018 has USB-C

        • You’re right, the MercedesMe app offers a decent number of features, however many models require the Mercedes me Adapter to be connected to the OBD2 port, not quite the same experience.

          There’s also nothing like smart summon from Merc, which while does have its flaws, is improving, and is bloody cool that it’s even possible.

          Don’t forget about the solar integration into the app for those who own Tesla powerwall and the frequency at which suggestions are made, then arrive, is something I seriously hope other OEMs follow.

    2. One feature rarely mentioned that I use daily with the car is Siri. Using shortcuts on the iPhone I can simply hold the phone near my face without turning it on and say “hey Siri, lock the doors” or “hey Siri, open the frunk”. Siri will also notify you as well. Nothing like a voice coming out of your pocket warning you that “Your car was unlocked, so I locked it” to get a few stares as you are walking into a store. Also, another way to share navigation info via your iPhone is to link your calendar to the Tesla. That way when you get into the car to go to a doctor visit, for example, you will see that navigation is already set up to take you to the doctors address.

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