I didn’t realize how much I rely on texting until I couldn’t access my messages while in a Tesla. Yes, I could make calls after I connected my iPhone to the car infotainment system in a (borrowed) Model 3 and use the Tesla voice control. But texting wasn’t an option unless I took out my phone, which wasn’t going to happen while driving.
Tesla’s big draw is that you don’t need your phone mounted to the dash. The central touchscreen and operating system provides everything you need in one place: navigation, traffic, voice control, phone calls, music, podcasts, and much more. But no texting.
I wasn’t the only one frustrated. For years, voice texting and message reading abilities have been highlighted as “missing” Tesla features. Along with Waze features, Apple Music integration, and other console skills, YouTube videos, Reddit pages, and Tesla forums are filled with tricks and tips to push the boundaries of Tesla’s operating system.
Until last week, adding Spotify was a top request for the streaming music section of the all-electric vehicle. With the latest Tesla software update, known as V10, Spotify is finally directly built into the music player.
For YouTuber “Tesla Raj,” that means his workaround video for streaming Spotify is no longer needed. In a phone call this week, the 37-year-old Model 3 owner in the Bay Area said he wasn’t offended that the video is now useless. As a Tesla fan, he said he understands that Tesla is constantly going through a long list of priorities on how to improve the vehicles. Eventually this one made it to the top of the queue.
For other capabilities, he explained how some screen features are hidden or buried, like adding favorite locations to your navigation screen. “Sometimes what you’re looking for is there, but might not be one-click access,” he said in a call from his Navy blue Model 3 that he bought last year. Take this quick way to skip the update timer, no software or plugins needed:
For other features, like multiple stop planning or Waze features like red light camera warnings, you need a legit workaround, at least until it’s available. Tesla CEO Elon Musk added Sentry Mode after much pleading from drivers back in February. Tesla over-the-air updates make the cars suddenly have a new set of skills, similarly to updating your iPhone to the latest iOS version.
But until Tesla or Musk himself prioritizes what the community wants, users like Raj and many others are figuring out how to take advantage of the Tesla interfaces, mainly through the car screen web browser. Now, video players from the V10 update (there’s Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Tesla video tutorials) are available as well.
Raj, who declined to give his full name, mentioned fellow YouTuber “MotherFrunker” as “someone who’s figured out a way to bring that information to you.” He said his third-party hacks for the car, (like calculator, weather, and notes apps for the central screen) are “making our cars more powerful.”
I came across MotherFrunker from his Tesla video for how to add a texting app to the Model 3.
In an online conversation with MotherFrunker, a 28-year-old technology teacher named Franklin in Toronto, the Tesla hack guru explained that he based his hack on the web app he created for Tesla. It lets him see what tools and features are most popular. His web app has about 1 million page views.
The top five tools people use in the Tesla through the MotherFrunker web browser page are maps (which includes a Waze workaround), calculator, games beyond the ones Tesla offers in its arcade, sticky notes, and weather. Franklin, who wouldn’t share his full name, separately built out the Tesla Tasker to automate features typically controlled through the Tesla mobile app.
A big caveat is that certain “hacks” or workarounds to add more functions to the Tesla console only work with Android, like with Franklin’s text message tool. “Android users once again have a huge advantage when it comes to being able to do really cool and fancy things with their Tesla,” Franklin said. For Apple users, the Tesla experience is less customizable. But hey, iPhone users got Siri to work with the Model 3 last year, so there’s hope yet.
Even as Tesla keeps adding skills and features to the operating system, there’s a never-ending list of requests that drivers want. Just look at Musk’s Twitter page:
You’re welcome! Feature requests always appreciated.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 26, 2019
Without Tesla making official updates and changes, YouTubers and other Tesla community members and fans stay plenty busy showing drivers how to make the car function just like they want.
“I have and will continue to push the limits based on what we are given access to,” Franklin vowed.