GM Authority has learned that General Motors is officially discontinuing its OnStar phone feature, otherwise known as Hands-Free Calling, or HFC. The feature was first made available in the late ‘90s, making it the first built-in calling features provided by an automaker on the market.
For those who may be unaware, the Hands-Free Calling OnStar phone feature is a separate system from the Bluetooth-based smartphone hands-free calling system. Operated primarily via voice recognition and/or the central infotainment screen, the system enables phone calls without the need of a separate cell phone. Users purchase minutes through OnStar, and each vehicle is assigned a unique phone number, enabling both outbound and inbound calls.
Initially, the OnStar phone feature was a unique offering, and because it hit the market prior to the proliferation of cell phones (way before there was even such a thing as smartphones), it was definitely ahead of its time. But now, with the majority of customers already owning a Bluetooth-equipped smartphone that can connect to just about any modern infotainment system, the OnStar HFC system is more or less obsolete.
“We routinely evaluate our services to provide the best experience for our members,” General Motors’ Advanced Technology Communications, OnStar and Connectivity representative, Stephanie Lang told GM Authority. “In this spirit, we have decided to discontinue HFC for MY20 and newer vehicles. Members can use Bluetooth pairing, or Apple CarPlay and Android Auto projection, to make phone calls while keeping their hands on the wheel.”
That said, a particular subset of people – particularly those who don’t own a cell phone – may not like the departure of the OnStar phone Hands-Free Calling feature. That said, the amount of people who don’t own at least some kind of a cell phone, be it a traditional mobile device or a smartphone, is dwindling every day.
It’ll be interesting to see which legacy OnStar features will be phased out next. Turn-by-turn navigation seems like one possibility, given most smartphones come equipped with similar capabilities… but at this point, that’s mere speculation.
Update: Ms. Lang has informed us that Hands Free Calling will remain active for members with model year 2019 or older vehicles, and that these members will still be able to buy HFC minutes.