About 18 months ago, I ordered my first Tesla (Model S refresh). Then my usual worries and overcomplications got int the way. Hmmm, key cards. Okay. I can hide a few in case I’m ever locked out. Phone as a key? Great idea! Err, what if the battery dies? Lose my phone? Robbed? Aliens?
Nearly a year ago (September 15, 2021, but who’s counting?) I posted on TMC that I had a Galaxy Watch 4, and asked if there was an app to unlock my car, etc. @joshendy mentioned he created his own app (how cool is that?) – originally Tesla Time on Google Play, now it is Watt Time – For your Tesla. I also just stumbled across Watt Key – For your Tesla which turns your watch into a Bluetooth key – I haven’t had a chance to check either out.
Unfortunately, I thought the Watch 4, like the Watch 3, and prior Motorola offerings left me flat, so by the time joshendy replied, my watch had been long returned.
Fast forward – this year, the originally named Galaxy Watch 5 came out after spending zillions in name brainstorming sessions for a successor to the Galaxy Watch 4. I bought the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, mostly because it offered a purportedly huge battery life. Note, I have an apple household, and own about 6 iPads, and presently subscribe to 4 iPhones for my family, but I’m an Android phone guy. I try not to be, don’t want to be, but am. I’ve seen but have no way to try the existing apps, and heck, I don’t even know how many Tesla apps are available for the apple watch, but they are out there. However, I believe Android gives you some options hardware wise that apple doesn’t, so when you read further below about DRIVE Electric for Tesla, you’ll understand what I mean.
I then bought two apps (sorry Josh, yours looks great, but after buying the other two, I didn’t think I needed a third or fourth).
Soap Box Rant: I think you should always have a physical key card with you – it doesn’t weight a lot, and the downside of not having a physical key card could I suppose leave you stranded. Okay, enough warning.
Here’s the story:
First I tripped over Wear for Tesla – that will happen when you google Wear OS and Tesla! It seemed to tick all the boxes, clean interface, pretty much control everything. $7 later, it was mine.
It can do some nifty things – I think it’s through the cloud, so it sends the signals to and fro the cloud, and then I believe your car’s LTE or wifi will interact. You can then do pretty much what you want – unlock the car, control the temperature, remote start, etc. – the list is huge. You can find it at wearfortesla.danielcastro.dev . Note: The (outdated) FAQ on the website states it doesn’t work on Samsung watches. Buzzer – wrong - well, I think they’re referencing the ol’ Tizen days which ended with the Watch 3. I assure you, this app works on my Watch 5 Pro, which is internally similar to the Watch 4, so there shouldn’t be any problems there.
Here are a few photos of Wear for Tesla from their google play listing:
Now, why did I stumble across DRIVE for Electric and spend about 4 hours this weekend getting a certain part to work?
Level 1 – it handles NFC. It would be rare for me to be in a place where I don’t have wifi or LTE, but there is a place in the mountain where I’ve been where you lose signal. If that happened I don’t think I could remote my way into the car via wifi or LTE. I had also been in an auditorium for recitals (kids!) where the phone has gotten really hot and seen the poor battery get demolished as the phone tried to get a signal – this has happened every year, and to my friends as well, so that tells me in a poor signal area, I may also lose phone power. I guess if my phone was dead, my watch might not fare better, but maybe….
Anyway, the NFC setup took under 1 minute. I turns out I regretted the NFC function the way I implemented it, however it was uber cool to have my phone turned off, and use my watch to both unlock the car by the pillar, but also have it recognized as a key on the consol.
Level 2 – This is where I spent hours. Note, the developer Runar was incredibly responsive and helpful. Anyway, if NFC isn’t enough for you, how about walk up and walk away unlocking? Yup, my watch can act like my phone in that capacity. It wasn’t without snags to set up (I think the biggest issue was I needed the watch to have location enabled, which is a battery drain so I usually keep it off) and there were some confusing things, but now I can throw my phone out, and my watch will unlock the car like my phone would have. That also means I DON’T have to keep putting my watch by the console to authorize. (I might have been able to avoid that with the start icon.)
Here's a few photos, this time from DRIVE Electric for Tesla:
Miscellaneous – I plugged in my car after a few days out of the garage, and wanted it to charge immediately versus the normal scheduled time. It took me a few minutes, but I was able to get DRIVE my Electric to do so – I couldn’t find how to get Wear for Tesla to do it (if it can).
Which should you buy? In many ways Wear for Tesla has cleaner displays, and I think it offers additional Watch shortcuts (there’s one for control (the main one) and one for battery information, and one for climate control.) It also seems a tad more “elegant” to me.
However, the one I keep coming back to is DRIVE Electric for Tesla. I think it has more options and more controls. It also offers multiple ways to display the controls. For $9 I can’t see what else I’d want from a car app.
Bear in mind, originally I just wanted a way to unlock the car and maybe set the A/C. Both apps will do that. And at least DRIVE Electric for Tesla will let me do some more things, like configure the trunk to open when I approach, or honk, lights, etc. – however, just because you CAN do a thing doesn’t mean you should – in a pinch, I can at least get the charging to skip the schedule, and I can change the charging percentage. However, I can also theoretically type a letter on the watch, but without a hardware keyboard, well, there’s no way I’d hunt and peck all day unless I was stranded on an island. You get the idea. Some things (I dare say most things) are better left to the Tesla app on your phone. However, in a pinch or on the go, I think either of these watch apps, and probably Watt Time and/or Watt Key, are great adjuncts.