Welcome to Tesla Motors Club
Discuss Tesla's Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, Cybertruck, Roadster and More.
Register

Phone key in passive mode?

eisenb11

Member
Dec 11, 2020
199
208
Redondo Beach, CA
Since. I have nothing else to do while waiting for my car... my next pre-owners question! :D

Can the phone key/app be configured to operate in passive instead of active mode?

I often need to leave my phone in a communal lockbox at work. Occasionally, I just leave it in my car.

If my phone gets stolen, I don’t want the thief also being able to steal my car. And if I leave my phone in the car, I want to be able to lock the door. I want to be able to use the phone (manually, through the app if that’s possible) as a backup, but I don’t want it to automatically unlock/start my car by just being present.

I intend to purchase one of those key fobs to use on a primary basis as I can keep one of those on me at all times.

Is this possible?
 

Cheezhead19

Member
Nov 9, 2020
50
13
Kirkland, WA
Pin to drive should prevent someone from stealing your car, but I'm not sure about unlocking automatically. My car delivers on friday though so any knowledge I have is from this forum, reading the manual (because what else is there to do while waiting) and youtube.
 

skygraff

Member
May 15, 2018
179
136
Chicago
If you turn off the phone's bluetooth, it won't be able to act as a key while it's in the car. The app can still control the car (remotely "turn it on" for somebody without a key to drive) so make sure you have your phone locked when not in your possession. Depending on your local climate, you may like the notion of going with the lock box rather than leaving it in the car just so you can pre-cool/heat before leaving work.

Since the phone will (should) still unlock the car and allow somebody to drive without having to unlock your phone, turning the bluetooth completely off and, depending on the phone's method of turning on BT, possibly turning the phone completely off might help avoid the concern of a stolen car. Also, as mentioned, PIN to drive would help but wouldn't keep somebody from accessing your car's storage if the phone is stolen.

Now, if your normal needs are such that the phone as key wouldn't be used, you could just never pair it as a key and, instead, use the card. Phone as key is great but it's not the only way. Little known fact, once you use the key card to get in the car, you have (I think) 2 minutes to step on the brake and drive so you don't need to put it on the center console unless you take too long.
 
Last edited:

drtimhill

Active Member
Apr 25, 2019
1,668
2,017
Seattle
If you have an iPhone and use a decent PIN and/or TouchID/FaceID then even if its stolen the phone is still far more secure than a regular car key. Not certain about Android, probably similar. As noted, you can turn off bluetooth on your phone which disables the "walk up key" function.

Your alternatives to the phone as key are the key card (comes with the car) or a key fob. Note, however, that the key fob is in some ways the least secure as if it is stolen then the car can also be stolen. While the same applies to key cards its less obvious to a thief than the key fob. Finally, you can also get 3rd party "key rings" (that is, a ring you wear on your finger than acts just like a key card).

You can also add a "PIN to drive" to the car, so even if someone unlocks the car (by any means) they still wont be able to drive it away without the PIN. However, you will have to enter the PIN every time you want to drive the car, so very secure but least convenient.
 

eisenb11

Member
Dec 11, 2020
199
208
Redondo Beach, CA
If you turn off the phone's bluetooth, it won't be able to act as a key while it's in the car. The app can still control the car (remotely "turn it on" for somebody without a key to drive) so make sure you have your phone locked when not in your possession. Depending on your local climate, you may like the notion of going with the lock box rather than leaving it in the car just so you can pre-cool/heat before leaving work.

I'd like to still leave BT on as I still want my phone to work as normal otherwise. I know I can just not pair the phone, but ideally, I'd like to pair the phone but just not have it do any of the automatic door lock/start stuff.

If you have an iPhone and use a decent PIN and/or TouchID/FaceID then even if its stolen the phone is still far more secure than a regular car key. Not certain about Android, probably similar. As noted, you can turn off bluetooth on your phone which disables the "walk up key" function.

Your alternatives to the phone as key are the key card (comes with the car) or a key fob. Note, however, that the key fob is in some ways the least secure as if it is stolen then the car can also be stolen. While the same applies to key cards its less obvious to a thief than the key fob. Finally, you can also get 3rd party "key rings" (that is, a ring you wear on your finger than acts just like a key card).

You can also add a "PIN to drive" to the car, so even if someone unlocks the car (by any means) they still wont be able to drive it away without the PIN. However, you will have to enter the PIN every time you want to drive the car, so very secure but least convenient.

I do use a PIN and Face ID, but my understanding is that unlock/start can be done without unlocking the phone. Another issue, is that with the phone working as an active key, I cannot intentionally leave my phone in the car, which I have to do sometimes.

I'm already planning on buying the key fob as I can keep that on me vs leaving it in the car or putting it in a communal lock box.

I'm not actually worried about some stealing my car in the traditional sense - it's just that I can't take my phone everywhere with me, which requires that I sometimes leave them in a public place where they *could* be taken or I have to leave it in the car.
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
8,167
9,020
Riverside Co. CA
I'd like to still leave BT on as I still want my phone to work as normal otherwise. I know I can just not pair the phone, but ideally, I'd like to pair the phone but just not have it do any of the automatic door lock/start stuff.



I do use a PIN and Face ID, but my understanding is that unlock/start can be done without unlocking the phone. Another issue, is that with the phone working as an active key, I cannot intentionally leave my phone in the car, which I have to do sometimes.

I'm already planning on buying the key fob as I can keep that on me vs leaving it in the car or putting it in a communal lock box.

I'm not actually worried about some stealing my car in the traditional sense - it's just that I can't take my phone everywhere with me, which requires that I sometimes leave them in a public place where they *could* be taken or I have to leave it in the car.

The answer is "dont use the phone as key feature". If you will be using the keyfob, and or the keycard, and have these issues with phone as key, you should not setup phone as key at all.

Note, if you dont setup phone as key, you will still be able to unlock, and drive the car, using your phone. You would use the tesla app to unlock the car, and you could use the remote start feature from the app to drive the car. Thats what every single third party app does that says it supports phone (smartwatch) as key. None of them actually do, they simply use the built in tesla features for this.

So, dont setup the phone as key function, and you can still use your phone "as a backup" to get into and drive the car. There is no way to setup phone as key as a passive feature because you already have the functions passively through the app.
 
  • Like
Reactions: eisenb11

eisenb11

Member
Dec 11, 2020
199
208
Redondo Beach, CA
The answer is "dont use the phone as key feature". If you will be using the keyfob, and or the keycard, and have these issues with phone as key, you should not setup phone as key at all.

Note, if you dont setup phone as key, you will still be able to unlock, and drive the car, using your phone. You would use the tesla app to unlock the car, and you could use the remote start feature from the app to drive the car. Thats what every single third party app does that says it supports phone (smartwatch) as key. None of them actually do, they simply use the built in tesla features for this.

So, dont setup the phone as key function, and you can still use your phone "as a backup" to get into and drive the car. There is no way to setup phone as key as a passive feature because you already have the functions passively through the app.

Thanks, sounds like I can get the best of both worlds by following your suggestion!
 

drtimhill

Active Member
Apr 25, 2019
1,668
2,017
Seattle
do use a PIN and Face ID, but my understanding is that unlock/start can be done without unlocking the phone. Another issue, is that with the phone working as an active key, I cannot intentionally leave my phone in the car, which I have to do sometimes.

Just to clarify, the PIN I was talking about was one have to enter in the cars screen to start the car (not your phone PIN). If this is enabled then regardless of how you unlock the car you must always enter that to drive away.

Your best bet is probably to permanently remove your phone as a car key, and then use key card and the key fob (as you note). This will let you leave the phone in the car without needing to toggle Bluetooth on and off all the time. You WILL still be able to use most of the Tesla phone app functionality (remote warm-up, charging status etc) as this doesnt rely on Bluetooth.

FYI you can also set a glovebox PIN if you want additional protection for your phone while its locked in the car.
 

eisenb11

Member
Dec 11, 2020
199
208
Redondo Beach, CA
You WILL still be able to use most of the Tesla phone app functionality (remote warm-up, charging status etc) as this doesnt rely on Bluetooth.

Out of curiosity, as this is the most likely route that I'll be going - is there anything super cool that I'm going to miss by not pairing my phone as a key and using the app to do things? Assume, that I have the key fob for the lock/unlock/start stuff.

Thanks!
 

skygraff

Member
May 15, 2018
179
136
Chicago
First off, the suggestion of turning off bluetooth was simply for when you leave the phone in the car since, if it was paired as a key, leaving it in the car with the BT on would keep it unlocked or, if locked with the card, still allow somebody else to possibly open the door (and drive) without the card. To me, toggling BT on once I get back in the car is a minimal inconvenience but I very rarely leave my phone in the car so my situation is different than yours.

The only thing that you'd be missing out on would be walk up unlock and walk away lock without having to carry a separate fob. While I'm not a fan of fobs since I don't carry any other keys so don't need a "keychain," the only other problem with fobs, in general, is the potential security holes they introduce (although, I think this one uses BT rather than basic RF so it may be more secure than typical). I believe you can even pair the fob with your driver profile so that the seat/mirrors/steering wheel will adjust as you open the door. Of course, you can cheaply and easily pair other phones as keys whereas purchasing multiple fobs might be cost prohibitive; easy to delete phone keys, as well, which could be nice if you like sharing your car with people you later dislike.

The rest of the app functions operate via the internet so, as long as you have connectivity for both your phone and the car, you can use all active features regardless of whether you've paired the phone as a key.

Enjoy your car and try things different ways before throwing the baby out with the bath water.
 

drtimhill

Active Member
Apr 25, 2019
1,668
2,017
Seattle
Out of curiosity, as this is the most likely route that I'll be going - is there anything super cool that I'm going to miss by not pairing my phone as a key and using the app to do things? Assume, that I have the key fob for the lock/unlock/start stuff.

Thanks!

You wont be able to use Summon or Smart Summon, since these require Bluetooth to communicate to the car and triangulate. Most of the functions will take longer to execute, since the phone will have to communicate to the car via the Internet rather than point-to-point via Bluetooth. And if the car or phone is out of range of a cell tower, none of them will work at all.
 

DaveRZ

Member
Nov 19, 2019
163
219
Murrieta, CA
While I admit I've never tested it thoroughly, leaving your phone in the car (with BT on), and then locking the car (via key fob, keycard, etc...) should secure the vehicle. The car *SHOULD* see that the phone is in the car already and not use it as a "key" to unlock the doors. Otherwise you'd never be able to lock yourself in the car if your phone BT was still on. Someone could just walk up and open your door whenever they wanted. Imagine sleeping in the car and someone could just open your door because your phone was there. Or getting carjacked at a stoplight and your car opens because your phone is there.

I'm also willing to bet that if someone were to break into your parked car in this scenario (setting off the alarm), that Tesla would program the system to ignore the phone left inside and not allow it to unlock the drive system automatically.

Again, I've never really tested my theory here, but I assume (and hope) that they have thought of these simple real-world scenarios while they were designing the system.
 

About Us

Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.

Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.


SUPPORT TMC
Top