General Motorsintroduced its OnStar connected service a quarter of a century ago. Initially offered as a luxury item on select vehicles, it morphed into an all-encompassing feature for GM vehicles at every price point. A year ago, that service expanded to the world of smartphones, though users still needed an account connected to a GM vehicle. Now, it's open to anyone with a phone and a willingness to pay a modest monthly fee.

"We are excited to deliver the power and promise of OnStar's key safety features to more people in more places with the expanded launch of OnStar Guardian," said Santiago Chamorro, GM's vice president of Global Connected Services. "Over the past year, we've heard incredible stories that illustrate how OnStar Guardian has helped our members. As pandemic-related restrictions relax and people begin to travel again, we understand it is important that everyone feels protected and connected. That is why we are expanding this subscription offering based on our expansive insights."

GM OnStar Guardian App

How is OnStar Guardian different from OnStar systems in GM-branded vehicles? For starters, it isn't connected to a car. Users download the OnStar Guardian app to their phone, which can then offer a variety of services to that user. Provided you own (or are a passenger in) a vehicle with compatible connectivity, it could be possible to access some of those services directly through the vehicle. Otherwise, it's all handled through the phone and as of now, location status, roadside assistance, emergency services, and mobile crash response are part of the package.

Crash response likely deserves the most attention, as it uses various sensors in the phone to determine if an accident has taken place. Just like in vehicle-based OnStar systems, a representative will call the phone to assess the situation and render assistance if needed. Mom and dad might like location status as well, as it tracks the movement of the phone. Roadside assistance functions similar to most roadside assistance plans, offering help in the event of a dead battery, flat tire, or other non-emergency situations.

According to OnStar's website, the standalone app subscription starts at $15 per month and can be shared on up to seven devices. The app is available from Apple's App Store or through Google Play.

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