App Focus: General Motors “MyBrand” Apps

App Focus: General Motors “MyBrand” Apps

More and more, vehicles are being released with corresponding apps that allow you to be more connected with your vehicles than was previously possible. Different brands have different apps, and these different apps all have different functionality at different costs.

So begins another series here on the WestHerr.com blog: App Focus. Occasionally I’ll be highlighting a different manufacturer’s app, and how to make it work with your vehicle. We begin with GM vehicles.

App Name: MyChevrolet, MyGMC, MyBuick, MyCadillac

Screenshot_20170601-220635Features:

  • Key fob functionality (Ability to lock, unlock, and remote start if equipped)
  • Digital owner’s manual
  • How-To Videos
  • Check for recalls
  • Location services
  • Schedule service appointments
  • Request roadside assistance
  • Vehicle status (with OnStar subscription)
  • Send Navigation to vehicle (with OnStar subscription)

Cost: Free for 5 years from the vehicle’s original purchase date (OnStar Basic Plan)

This functionality is mostly available on 2011 vehicles and up, but that varies for a few specific models. Check with a technology specialist or your salesperson if you’re not sure if your vehicle is recent enough to use this service.

These apps replaced the previous “OnStar Remote Link” app that was available for GM vehicles. These new apps, one for each vehicle line, are still powered by OnStar. If you’ve previously signed into the “OnStar Remote Link” app, the same username and password will work for your new “MyBrand” app.

When you purchased your vehicle you should have got an email from welcoming you to your brand’s owner center. Clicking through the email and following the steps therein will complete the rest of this process for you. The steps I’m listing below are for folks who have had their vehicles for a while and don’t have the app set up yet.

The process essentially is creating an OnStar.com account online, make sure your vehicle is linked to it, and then use that sign in information at the app’s login screen. Here are the details;

Process:

  1. Go to OnStar.com and click “Sign Up” in the “My Account” drop down menu
  2. Enter your email address as a username, and create a new password
  3. An email will be sent to you to confirm the email address is real and active. Click on the link provided in that email
  4. You’ll be asked to confirm your zip code and/or your OnStar account number. (You can find your OnStar account number simply by pushing the blue OnStar button and asking an advisor)
  5. Continue to the owners center screen
  6. Download the appropriate MyBrand app on your cell phone or tablet
  7. Sign in with that email address and password you provided on OnStar.com

If this process give you any difficulty you can always press the blue OnStar button on your rear-view mirror, or call one of the Technology Specialists to help.

Stay Connected,
Andy

What Does That Button Do? Vol 2

What Does That Button Do? Vol 2

Welcome back to another installment of “What does that button do?” Today I’ll be going over the just some of the buttons that have to do with the advanced safety system that may be equipped on your vehicle. These features are state-of-the-art and may be buttons you’ve never seen prior to test driving and taking your new car home. They may be located on the dash of your vehicle or steering wheel, if so equipped.

follow distance button

The “follow distance gap” button works in concert with your adaptive cruise control system. For example, if you are using the cruise control system to keep your speed at 55 mph, and the person in front of you is traveling at 45, the combination of sensors and cameras on the vehicle will see this and back your speed off to 45 mph as well until that person is no longer in front of you. This button allows you to control how closely you’d like to follow the person in front of you when the adaptive cruise control is functioning. When you press this button you’ll see a picture of a vehicle on the smaller screen in between your vehicle’s gauges. This car picture will be accompanied by 1, 2, or 3 bars. This represents your chosen follow distance: near, medium or far. The actual distance will vary based on how fast you’re going. The faster you’re driving, the longer each of these distances will be, to allow for an appropriate reaction time.

LDW switch 2

The button with the car and the lane lines controls your Lane Departure Warning system. The same forward facing camera that assists your adaptive cruise control also acts as the eyes for this system. The camera looks ahead and tries to see the line on the road. When it finds them, the vehicle will let you know if you’re drifting in and out of your lane with an alert of some kind. If you change lanes and use your turn signal, the system won’t yell at you. Some vehicles are also equipped with a Lane Keep Assist function that not only will alert you when you veering out of your lane, but it will nudge the wheel in an effort to keep you in your lane.

auto high beam buttonAutomatic high beams is a fantastic new safety feature that does exactly what it sounds like, it turns your high beams on when there are no vehicles in front of you, and shuts them off when a vehicle is detected either as an oncoming position, or as tail lights appear for vehicles traveling in the same direction. This is not only a feature of convenience, it’s one of safety as well.

Knowing with these buttons do and how the safety technology works is incredibly important. Sometimes vehicle technology can be a distraction but when used correctly and in an informed manner it can be a tremendous tool for keeping you and your passenger safe on the roads.

Stay connected,
Andy

Wireless Charging in Your Vehicle

Wireless Charging in Your Vehicle

Some vehicles come equipped with QI wireless charging pads built into the center console. This cutting edge technology allows you to charge your phone without plugging it in: simply set your phone down on the charging pad, and it charges. Easy as that.

In order for this to work properly, you’ll need to have a phone that supports wireless charging. Most of the newer Samsung Galaxy S model phones support this feature (Galaxy S6 or higher) but you should check your specific phone to be sure the feature is built into the phone. iPhones, sadly, do not yet support wireless charging, and based on the early circulating rumors about the upcoming iPhone 8, it probably won’t have wireless charging either.

If your phone doesn’t have wireless charging built in, or you’re a loyalist to the Apple ecosystem, there is a way to make your phone charge wirelessly without having the technology built in. There are companies that make special cases for your phone that will give you wireless charging compatibility. You can find them at your local electronics store, or at the online realtor named for a jungle. You know who I mean.

Wireless charging technology works by sending a charge through an electromagnetic field created when a compatible phone rests on a compatible. Since this process uses electromagnetism to send electricity, there is often a warning on these wireless charging pads to never put a metal object (keys, paper clips, coins, etc) in between the charging pad and your phone. These objects could get extremely hot as a result. So this is just something to be careful of.

prius charging pad
Some in-vehicle wireless charging pads come with an on/off button. When the light is lit, the charging station is powered on.

This new technology is an incredibly simple and convenient way to charge your phone on the go. If your vehicle is equipped with this feature, I encourage you to find out if your phone is compatible, and give it a try if it is. It might just be your new default way to charge your phone in your vehicle.

Stay Connected,
Andy

What Does That Button Do? Vol 1

What Does That Button Do? Vol 1

When I sit with customers and talk them through the different technology that comes with their vehicle, oftentimes customers are confused about what a specific button does. It’s completely understandable since most of them are just pictures and don’t say what they are. Often it’s just easier for people to leave these buttons alone rather than find them in their owners manual or call a Technology Specialist for assistance. I’m a big believer that if people are going to not use a feature on their vehicle, it should be because they have made an informed decision not to rather than out of ignorance of the feature.

So begins the first in a series of posts entitled “What Does That Button Do?” that covers buttons and lights you might come across on most vehicles.

tcs off buttonsTraction Control Off – Your vehicle has a traction control system that helps keep you safe in less-than-ideal driving conditions. When this system feels like one of your wheels is slipping and spinning rather than grabbing the road with the appropriate amount of traction, it takes force from that wheel and transfers it to a wheel that is getting traction. The traction control system comes on automatically every time you start your car. The reason there’s a button like the one pictured is for situation where you might be stuck in a stopped position like ice, snow, or mud. In those situations, you’ll want the wheels to spin so you can get the vehicle rocking back and forth so you can pull out of whatever you’re stuck in.  It’s a handy help in those situations, but this is not a button you’ll use with any frequency. Trucks and SUV owners may never need to use this button at all, since those vehicles sit high enough they may never get truly stuck.

Hazard SwitchHazard Lights/Four-Way Flashers – This is a light most people understand. When pressed the button causes all your turn signals to flash in rhythm, alerting other drivers that you’re going slowly, to be careful, or that you’re stopped. No matter the specific situation, it lets other drivers know that things are not right, and they should be careful. What’s important to note is where this button is located in your new vehicle. If you’re not very aware of where this button is, you’ll have a difficult time finding it when you’re panicked and looking for it while trying to drive in a treacherous situation. My advice is locate it and commit to memory where it is. It may eventually save your life.

Auto Start/Sauto-start-stop-technologytop Off – Some vehicles are now being equipped with auto start/stop technology. This allows you to maximize fuel efficiency by having the engine switch to a standby mode when you’re stopped at a light, stop sign, or in a drive-thru. As soon as you take your foot off the brake pedal, the engine kicks back on and you don’t miss a beat. Over the course of a year, this technology will save you between a tank and a tank and a half of gas. Some people don’t like the experience of the auto start/stop, and certain auto makers allow you the option to turn that off and have the engine idle like normal. If you see a button like the one pictured, you can press it and turn this feature off. You’ll often see this feature on Fords and Cadillacs, but not on Chevrolets, Buicks, or GMCs.

Next time we’ll be looking at the buttons and icons that accompany advanced safety features on some new vehicles.

Stay Connected,
Andy

Good News 2016 Ford Owners: You’re Getting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

Good News 2016 Ford Owners: You’re Getting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

I’ve written before about how awesome and helpful Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are to drivers, especially those who don’t have navigation built-in their vehicle. When Ford released their Sync 3 system on their 2016 vehicles they assured their customers they would eventually be getting an update to make the infotainment systems compatible with these cutting edge “phone projection” systems. Well, at long last that time has come.

With this new update you’ll be able to connect your iPhone 5 or higher or Android phone Lollipop or higher to your vehicle (with the phone’s USB cord) and experience all the benefits of these systems.

You can receive the update one of three ways:

  1. Make an Service Appointment with Your Ford Dealership – This would be the easiest way to make sure you get the update and get it done right. You’ll have to make an appointment, as this process can take over an hour. The update is free, and will only cost you the time it takes to complete it.
  2. Connect Your Vehicle to Your Home’s Wifi and get the update over-the-air – In your vehicle’s settings menu, you have the opportunity to connect your vehicle to your home’s wifi connection if you park close enough to your home to receive a strong signal. Your vehicle will go online occasionally and check for updates, and you’ll receive this update at some point in the near future. This takes place even when the vehicle isn’t running, usually overnight.
  3. Download the Update and Install it Yourself with a USB Flashdrive – For those of you feeling adventurous, you can download the update from the Ford Owner website and install it yourself. You’ll need to visit this site on a computer, create a free account linked to your vehicle (or sign in to the one you already have) and download the right version of the update. Then you’ll save the update to a USB flash drive and follow the directions on how to install the update on your vehicle.

NOTE TO IPHONE USERS – In order to use Apple CarPlay you may need to upgrade the physical USB ports at the dealership. This would NOT be free and will be an additional cost. Android users can use the ports that are already installed on the vehicle.

For any assistance with the DIY version of this update, or questions about any of the details associated with these systems, give myself or any of the other Technology Specialists a call.

Stay Connected
Andy

Who’s Calling? Getting Your Phone’s Contacts to Your Vehicle

Who’s Calling? Getting Your Phone’s Contacts to Your Vehicle

I know I’ve already written a lot about your phone’s relationship to your vehicle, but seeing that Americans spend 10 hours a day looking at screens, mostly our phones, it seems like a topic worth revisiting often. Vehicles now are just as much cell phone accessories as they are transportation. Our phones can power our music, navigation, text messages, and of course our calls. With every new model year our phones are taking up a bigger part of our in-vehicle experience.

When it comes to our calls, we want to be able to glance at our vehicle’s screen and see the name of the person calling us. Most of the time this happens automatically on our vehicles because our contact list downloads to our vehicle when we first pair our phone. When this happens we can live informed lives when we answer (or choose not to answer) our phone when driving.

If this doesn’t happen, there could be a few reasons why:

  1. Your phone is too old – More and more vehicles infotainment systems are built with smartphones in mind. This is great for most of us, but some of us still use older flip phones. Some flip phones have slightly newer operating systems that play nice with car systems, and some are still using older technology that isn’t compatible with modern vehicles.I hear from people somewhat often; “I just got this flip phone a year ago, how is it too old?” That’s a fair concern, but a lot of flip phones, even if they’re currently being produced, are using 10-15 year old technology that just isn’t compatible. Manufacture date of a phone has little bearing on how modern it actually is.
  2. The contacts are on your SIM card – Often when people are switching from a flip phone to a smart phone, or just using a smart phone for the first time, their contacts will be saved not to the phone itself but onto the SIM card of your phone. When you open the contact list on your cell phone you see all your contacts, but when you pair your phone to the car nothing shows up. The car is looking on your phone for contacts, but they’re not there; they’re located in the SIM card. Your best bet in this situation is to go into contact settings, export all your contacts to a single VCF file, and import them from that file on to your phone’s storage. Then the next time you get in your vehicle they’ll all be there and ready for you.
  3. You have to give the car permission – When pairing a smartphone for the first time, you’ll often receive a pop up on screen of your phone that asks if it’s okay to share your contact list and call history with your car. You’ll tap “Allow” and things should be good to go after a few minutes of waiting for your contacts to transfer over. But sometimes, if you navigate away from the bluetooth pairing screen too quickly after the connection is made, the message asking permission won’t pop up, and permission isn’t granted. The easiest solution here is to un-pair and pair the phone again, then wait a minute or two to see if either the request for your contacts pops up or if the contacts transfer over on their own.

In our quest to stay connected and safe while driving, only taking the most important calls will go a long way towards keeping our focus on the road. Knowing who’s calling with our contact list allows us to make that informed choice.

Stay Connected
Andy

Your iPhone and Your Vehicle: A (Complicated) Love Story

Your iPhone and Your Vehicle: A (Complicated) Love Story

Let’s think about your Apple iPhone and your vehicle as a love story.  (I keep this metaphor going throughout the post, but there’s some real content here, I promise.) They meet and of course have to be introduced, so you pair them up. It might not always be love and first sight, and sometimes that first pairing connection doesn’t hold; and you have to pair the iPhone a second, and maybe even a third time. It happens, and it’s completely normal. They eventually learn to love each other, but there’s a secret: the iPhone has trust issues.

JPEG image-1CEFEDF9F30F-1For instance, you need to go out of your way for your iPhone to trust your vehicle with your text messages.

  1. Go into your iPhone’s settings
  2. Tap on Bluetooth
  3. You’ll see the name of the connection with your vehicle. All the way to the right of that connection name will be a lower case “i” with a circle around it. Tap the circled “i”
  4. You’ll see a line called “Show Notifications”. Slide that to the on position
  5. Fully power down and restart your iPhone

So now your iPhone has learned to trust your vehicle with its texts. This is progress and leads to a much more productive relationship; but when it comes to sending texts, your iPhone still won’t share that responsibility with your vehicle. This leads to secret number two: your iPhone is a bit controlling.

If your vehicle allows you to send pre-made or custom responses to text messages, they won’t work with iPhone. That would be your vehicle sending the text via your phone, not the phone sending the message. “Just tell me what to say and I’ll send it,” your iPhone says; “you don’t get to send messages yourself.”

If your vehicle allows, you can send text messages with Siri Eyes Free (consult your owners manual for availability), iPhone’s compromise with your vehicle.

  1. Press and hold the designated button on your steering wheel until you hear the familiar chime, alerting you Siri is ready to take instructions
  2. After the chime, say “text” and the name of someone in your contact list. For example, “text Stew” or “text Jennifer”
  3. Siri will find that person in your contact list and ask, “What would you like to say to…?” the person you’re texting
  4. Speak your message, and Siri will read it back to you, asking if it’s okay to send
  5. Confirm or deny with “Yes” or “No” and the message will send

So the relationship goes on, and the two are happy together. Your iPhone connects right away when you start your vehicle, and Siri Eyes Free has actually enhanced their relationship. But on some very rare occasions, your iPhone may become suspicious of your vehicle. 

What I mean by this is there are some vehicles that will let you make calls with your iPhone; but when you receive calls, the call doesn’t come over the car. It stays on your phone, forcing you to either manually move the call to car by touching the phone’s screen or making you hang up on the person you’re calling so you can call them back and have the call come over the car’s bluetooth system. When this happens, it’s literally your iPhone no longer considering your vehicle a “trusted device”. Seriously, metaphor aside, that’s a real thing.

This used to happen on older GM vehicles; then it was fixed with an iOS software update, but this caused the same problem to spring up on Chevy Equinoxes and GMC Terrains. This issue was resolved a few months ago with another iOS update, but I’ve since heard from a customer who is now experiencing this issue on her Ford Escape. It will eventually be fixed by Apple but the struggle (and the frustration) is very real in the mean time. Let me emphasize this is very rare, and so far has always been resolved eventually.

All-in-all your iPhone is great. Your new vehicle is great. The relationship can sometimes be a little complicated, but what relationship isn’t? The most important thing is that your focus is on the road and that you’re safe; and if your iPhone can keep your attention there with voice commanded calls and texts, then it’s a love story for the ages.

Stay Connected
Andy