Tens of thousands of aftermarket remote-start-by-phone modules in the field ceased functioning in February, when AT&T cut off its 3G service to make way for the faster 5G network. Older SmartStart modules by Directed (VOXX) and Drone Mobile modules by Firstech that ran on 3G were now “bricked.”
“Under 10,000” SmartStart models and “under 20,000” Drone Mobile devices that let customers remote start their car from a phone (from virtually anywhere) and track their car were now useless.
Firstech and VOXX are therefore offering customers replacement modules at a discount These new modules may then be installed at local car audio dealers with about an hour of labor.
Under Directed’s program, an upgrade to a 4G SmartStart comes with a $50 to $100 discount if the customer buys certain services at that time.
Remote start under the VOXX brand was exclusively 4G so no devices were rendered obsolete.
Firstech is moving customers from the older DR-3400 to the newer Drone Mobile X1 with LTE service.
“We’ve been trying to get ahead of this for the past 18 months, emailing customers directly saying that their service will end if they don’t update their hardware,” said Firstech Marketing Director Justin Lee. “We did get a lot of relief by the extension of the 3G network in Canada. Canadian customers won’t be effected until 2025.”
VOXX Electronics Senior VP Aron Demers said, “We’ve been reaching out to subscribers that have active devices. We messaged them regularly to let them know their device service will expire. It’s in our user license agreement that the device is subject to carrier support.” Demers said many of the customers are upgrading.
Automakers are in the same boat and millions of vehicles will lose their 3G features by the end of this year, with some requiring a hardware upgrade if owners wish to keep crash notification or remote start from a phone.
Other 3G features that may be impacted include OEM remote unlocking, emergency roadside assistance, navigation map updates and vehicle diagnostics.
For some car makers, an upgrade is not possible and customers will permanently lose features, said Consumer Reports.
Honda owners who didn’t already download a software upgrade may need to pay more than $900 for a hardware upgrade or lose features. To view the impact on individual car models visit Consumer Reports here.