Ford's SYNC system is perhaps the best in-vehicle information and entertainment platform in the industry, but GM's OnStar is striving to keep pace with a new smartphone app technology. Unlike the SYNC system, which allows users to access social media and entertainment apps from their phones through the in-car system, OnStar is going after vehicle functions like remote start, lock/unlock and more.

The new technology is set to debut on "most" new 2011 Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC vehicles. The apps will be brand-specific, and allow owners to control actions typically handled by a key fob--but without the radio-frequency limitations on distance.

What benefits could you see from these apps? GM offers the example of remotely starting the vehicle from within a baseball stadium to cool the car by the time you arrive at the vehicle. Warming up the car before leaving the office is another possibility. We're not so sure, however, how controlling the horn, lights, or lock/unlock functions from huge distances is an advantage.

Other benefits from the apps include access to OnStar's vehicle diagnostics info, such as fuel level, oil life, tire pressures, and average fuel economy. OnStar subscribers can also directly contact the service's advisors for information and assistance.

The apps require secure login to keep the vehicle under only the owner's control. So far they're only available on the iPhone and Android platforms.