One of Tesla’s major competitive advantages is their software. They’re always working on improving the user experience and adding new features to their cars. My car today is objectively better than it was the day I bought it. Being able to deliver those updates over-the-air sets them apart from the competition, but as good as it is, there are sometimes gaps in the user experience. Ways that we may want to use our cars that aren’t covered by what Tesla has built … and that’s where third party software options come in.
Want to add voice assistant support to your car? Or see how much you’re paying to charge your car over the month? How about smarter scheduled charging, or automatically heating your car on a cold morning? There are some really talented developers and software companies creating software that can fill those gaps. Here’s my top 5 picks for third party Tesla apps to check out. These aren’t presented in a ranked or priority order.
This first one has come in handy on quite a few trips that I’ve taken over the past year or so. Tesla’s in-car navigation is good and gets the job done helping you get from point A to point B, but it’s lacking on a few features. You can’t add waypoints. It’s accurate enough for estimates of where and when you might need to charge, but again, it’s limited.
That’s where A Better Route Planner comes in. It started as a web app, but now has iOS and Android apps as well. You enter your starting point, destination, as well as any additional stops along your trip. What sets this apart though is that you also tell it what car you’re driving, what kind of tires and rims you have equipped, and it will calculate an estimated range based on those criteria. It also takes things like weather and elevation changes into account. You can even manually enter in your estimated driving speed, departure charge, what charge you’d like your car to have when you reach your destination, average energy consumption, and more. You can go as far down the rabbit hole as you’d like to go, but in the end you get a very accurate estimate of what to expect for your trip. The flexibility of determining what charging stops you want is also fantastic. It not only shows you Tesla Superchargers, but it can show you third party chargers as well.
Even better is that you can load A Better Route Planner on the in-car browser, load up your trip, and get real-time tracking to compare to the estimates. I can’t recommend A Better Route Planner more.
A couple of those Tesla over-the-air and feature updates I mentioned before were Tesla’s dash cam and Sentry Mode. Format a USB drive and plug it into one of the front USB ports and you can have your car automatically save out footage from the cameras while you’re driving, as well as record footage when someone gets close to your car while parked. Both are great features, but you can’t view any of that footage directly in the car yet. That’s where SentryView for iOS comes in handy. If you’re on Android, I’d recommend taking a look at TeslaCam Reviewer. Both operate in similar ways. With iOS13 you can now plug external drives directly into your phone, which is something Android’s been able to do for some time. So if you plug your USB drive into your phone and load this app, you’ll be able to scan through all of the recorded footage. It automatically groups camera angles together by time stamps, so watch all of the angles at once. Save them out to your camera roll or share them out to email, text message … whatever you like. If you’re using either the Dashcam or Sentry Mode features, this app is a must.
If you’re a numbers geek, kind of like I am, and want to get into deep detail on your trips, energy usage, charging, battery health, and more, TeslaFi is still my go to recommendation. It’s definitely one of the nerdiest apps out there for tracking your cars usage to estimate costs and battery health, but I’ve found it to be accurate and relatively easy to use. This isn’t a free app, so you’ll be paying $5 a month or $50 for a year of service, but there is a free two week trial. I’m a subscriber of the service, so if you follow my link you’ll get an extra two weeks to try it out.
Setting up the service requires logging into your Tesla account so TeslaFi can get an authentication token to unlock the tracking. After that you’ll be able to see all of your trips going forward, as well as track your charging rates and battery health. One of the reasons I’ve always liked TeslaFi was for the incredible level of detail that is tracked from each trip, which includes elevations, temperatures, energy use, and more. All of this data is also exportable, which allows you to slice and dice it any way you like. You can view the health of your battery and it’s degradation, as well as see how temperature is affecting your efficiency. If you’re a data nerd, you’ll rejoice when it comes to TeslaFi.
I reviewed Tezlab about a year and a half ago, and at that time I had some real nitpicks with the app. There were some things I found confusing with the display, and I thought it had a little bit of a disjointed navigation. But at the time I also said this …
“I’ll be keeping my eye on Tezlab to see how it evolves over time. In six months, it may be a product that I find indispensable, but not right now.”
It’s a bit longer than six months from that review, but that’s on me, not Tezlab. I have been keeping tabs on the app and watching all of the improvements they’ve been rolling out … and they’ve been busy. Really busy. Pretty much every nitpick I had back then is gone. The organization of the screens has been simplified, so navigating around the app is intuitive. The app has a profile tab which has a nice snapshot of your car, it’s charge, a breakdown of stats since you last unplugged, and range added vs. used, as well as trip efficiency vs. temp. It’s a really nice snapshot on the current state of your car. The track tab is a straightforward list of your trips and battery report. The battery graphs give you a really great view into high, medium, and low efficiency usage, as well as phantom drain without having to drill in further. Trip details show you efficiency, cost, average speed, and even elevation.
Where TeslaFi ticks the box for high level of detail and numbers, Tezlab balances that out with high level snapshots of your car, as well as tying all of this into the broader Tesla community. There are fun leaderboards to see how you compare to other drivers out there, and you can earn badges and awards based on how you drive. Plus all of the basic car controls are baked right into the app. There’s even a web view that you can load up and use in your car while you drive.
While Tezlab is a free app to use, you can only access a rolling 7-day window of data. They just launched Tezlab Pro, which costs $2.99/month or $29.99/year, and removes the time limit and unlocks some additional features like exporting data. I love this feature on TeslaFi and it’s great to see it on Tezlab too. It’s awesome for archiving or being able to look at the data any way you like. Definitely worth checking out and giving it a try.
This has been one of my go-to recommendations for some time now. If you’re looking for an app that’s straightforward and no-nonsense, tracks your trips, your energy use, your charging rates, and presents that info in simple, easy to read graphs, then Stats is your app. It’s the “just the facts, ma’am” of Tesla apps. Very intuitive navigation and screen layouts are the core of the experience, but Stats also adds a lot of really interesting new features to your Tesla.
It duplicates all of the standard Tesla controls, so you can open the frunk, trunk, charge port, as well as honk the horn or start the car and its climate controls. But it also allows for all of the controls to be added to Siri on your Apple devices. You can create custom phrases and controls to start your car, warm it up, open the frunk. All of it. This works from your phone, iPad, Apple Watch, and even the Homepod.
But that’s not the only thing it adds. The app has smart features like smart heating and cooling, smart battery prep, smart sentry, and smart charging. All of these build on existing features of the Tesla, but add additional controls and flexibility. You can set a temperature for your car and schedule times for it to automatically hit that temperature. Or use the battery prep feature to warm the battery on cold mornings to ensure you get better regenerative braking on your drive. Smart charging also lets you set a specific time to stop charging, which can help you avoid high time of use rates. And finally smart sentry can let you set multiple locations you’d like sentry mode to automatically arm or disarm itself. It’s not a free app, but is well worth the one-time payment.
But all of this leads to what I think is a huge opportunity for Tesla. Most of these services require you to log into your Tesla account to authenticate, so the service can get a Tesla token to work properly with your car. None of the apps I’ve recommended here record or store your credentials, but it’s up to them to create these log in and authentication systems. They’re only getting a Tesla token to get permissions to access the data and car controls. You can revoke these privileges at any time just by changing your Tesla account password, which resets your token. But that’s something that can, and needs to be improved by Tesla.
Tesla’s software is one of the things that really sets them apart. Adding features and improving the driver experience with over the air updates is something that no other car company is doing at the level of Tesla. And the fact that Tesla has opened up third party support to allow apps like these to exist is something not many people talk about as a competitive advantage. I think it is. The more Tesla embraces third party apps, the more value they bring to their customers. And not just with web and mobile apps, but with the potential of apps in the car too. I really hope Tesla continues down this path and opens up the in-car system to third parties as well, so every driver can add that “must have” missing feature or music service that they want. But one of the things that I really hope Tesla implements is a true Tesla log in and authentication system for third party services. Something like you see with “Log in with Google,” or Twitter, or even Apple. Users need to trust that they’re authenticating directly with Tesla and not through a third party. If they do that plus open up the in-car apps, the sky is the limit for what your Tesla experience can be like in the future.