Earlier this year as people eagerly awaited the Apple Watch there were early screen shots and even a video of Model S control from the Apple Watch. These screen shots and demonstrations were from an unreleased application using the undocumented Tesla Motors application programming interface (API) to control the Model S.
Since then a developer, Rego Apps, took the concept open source application from Eleks Labs, ideas and concepts from the Tesla Motors Club forums and released an application to the Apple app store called “Remote S” which provides Model S control from your Apple Watch and iOS devices. Interestingly, the vendor claims that Tesla has approached them for help with the official app so we’ll see where that leads too.
Being into all the latest gadgets I had to take this app for a spin on my new Apple Watch since there’s only so much fun to be had watching my heart rate climb on the treadmill.
Like all Apple Watch apps, the Remote S watch application begins with your iPhone. You purchase the app from the Apple App store for $9.99 US (plus any taxes) and download to your iPhone. While fairly pricey for an iOS app, you’re really getting two apps in one: the iOS app and the Apple Watch component. I think a price of $4.99 would have been more reasonable but also understand the needs and challenges of independent developers.
You’re really getting two apps in one: the iOS app and the Apple Watch app
The iOS app is itself a fully functional application that lets you do a lot of things from a single screen:
With this single screen (you can remove some of the blocks on this screen you don’t care about by touching the top left icon) you can control a lot of different aspects of your Model S simply by touching one of the icons. Most of the functions are the same as the official Tesla Motors “Model S” app, but there are a few differences. You can, for instance, fully open your sunroof with the Remote T app whereas you can only vent your sunroof with the Tesla Motors version.
There are some small 1.0-type bugs in both apps
While you can see both charge state in percentage as well as range, this initial 1.0 version of the app shows its youth in showing the range in the wrong units for me as well as some odd decimal points etc. There are other areas of the iOS app that shows relative immaturity too. For example when you change the state of something (like lock/unlock the car) the changes are not reflected on the screen leaving you confused for a while until the app gets the current state again. Some polish here is needed but for the first version of the app its pretty good and the vendor is very active on the TMC forums soliciting feedback.
If this was was the limits of the app then i’d just stick with the official one, but there are two other cool aspects:
- The Advanced Settings Screen
- The Apple Watch app
Touching the “Remote S” title at the top of the page brings up an advanced settings page letting you toggle some settings that have no user interface in the app:
The main draw for this app is really the Apple Watch component which we’ll cover in another section.
An aside on the interface
One thing any buyer of this app should beware of is that it is using an undocumented application programming interface (API) to control your Model S. It claims to be mimicking the API calls from the official Tesla Motors “Model S” app, but as you can see it is able to do some things that app can’t do, so in that regard it would be detectable. Tesla Motors could, at some point, decide to change the API which would require vendors like Rego to scramble with an update.
It isn’t easy for Tesla to make this change as it would require changes both at the TeslaMotors.com side and at the app side on both iOS and Android versions of its official apps and to come up with some kind of switchover plan. Other applications, like VisibleTesla, have also used this undocumented API (unofficially documented via the Tesla Motors Club forums) and have had mixed success with it and in some cases resulted in all API access for an account being disabled by Tesla to the point that most of the work on that project has slowed down.
Like the official app, the security model is reasonably secure — the app asks you for your “MyTesla” login information and uses that to get a persistent token (cookie) which it then uses for future sessions. If you change your password at MyTesla you’d have to re-login at the app. The app doesn’t send your password to the vendor or anywhere else, it just logs you in so it can do its work. There are some notes in the forums about the security of the SSL certificate being used and how to strengthen it, and if you’re at all concerned about security then you should stick with the official app.
Since this isn’t an official Tesla Motors app and it is not using an interface approved by Tesla Motors for third party use any buyers should beware.
Apple Watch Remote S app
The apple watch portion of the app basically gives you all those controls on your wrist. You can lock/unlock your car, honk your horn, start the car, turn on the A/C etc. The interface is clean and well done. It shares the same km vs miles issues as the iOS app but those wrinkles will be fixed in an update coming soon. Like the iOS app, after changes made to things like the lock state of the car the display can take time to reflect the changes. Also like the iOS version of the app it can do things the official Tesla Motors app can’t do like fully open your sunroof.
The best way to really show it’s capabilities is a collage of the screens:
The screens with the action icons, like “Start Car”, pop up when you force touch (press hard) on the Apple Watch display. Be careful as the icons generally need no confirmation so you could easily turn on your A/C, unlock you car and other fun stuff if you’re not careful.
Be careful as there are few confirmations needed to change car settings.
The Watch app does offer a glance too which offers a bunch of great information in a single glance and which I found to be more useful than I thought:
With each of the areas/functions, other than the noted small annoyances, both the iOS and watch apps worked as expected and were reliable in all my testing. For a 1.0 version this is quite an impressive accomplishment.
The vendor does not yet offer an Android/Pebble etc flavor of the app and still has some bugs to fix on the Apple side but he’s incredibly responsive on TMC and obviously cares about his work. As the app is successful for him he’ll be able to put more resources into updates, expansions and other platforms. I would love to see independent people rapidly iterating on improvements to the relatively static Tesla Motors app.
Do you need the Remote S app? Probably not. But the “wow factor” of controlling your car from your wrist is pretty cool assuming you’re willing to take the risk on a $10 unsanctioned app from a third party.