Apple CarPlay / Android Auto Update: Cord-Free Operation in BMWs, But at a Price

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We run down all the latest updates on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto including a peek at how cord-free CarPlay works in new BMWs.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay continue to be popular among drivers and smart device owners. Android Auto, for example, maintains a 4.2 stars overall rating at Google Play and about half of the nearly 200,000 users that have reviewed the app give it five stars. More and more car models are now compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Over 300 models currently support Apple CarPlay and more are being added as new models roll out. Here are some important recent developments about these popular in-vehicle apps.

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BMW Now Offers Wireless Apple CarPlay – But Charges For It.

The only thing that’s bewilderingly annoying about Apple CarPlay is that you have to carry around a 19th century technology wire with you everywhere you go. The phone has Bluetooth. Just about every audio system on planet Earth is Bluetooth enabled, too. So what’s with the cord?

In our latest test vehicle, the 2018 BMW X2, we tried out wireless Apple CarPlay. BMW is the first manufacturer to offer the service, and as far as we can discern, still the only one. We used a new iPhone X and found that the app was already loaded. Once we synced the phone to the car using the Bluetooth menus, all we had to do was use the BMW’s menus to sync CarPlay. It was a snap and could not have been easier. Since the BMW X2 also offers wireless device charging, there is no longer any reason to use a physical connection in a BMW that we can think of. As you can see in the short video above, there are dozens of apps that Apple CarPlay now integrates, including the all-important Maps, voice commands, and messaging.

 

We see two downsides to BMW’s new device integration platform:

First, no mention of Android Auto, which more than four out of ten smartphone users presently own in the U.S. market.

Second, BMW now charges $300 for Apple CarPlay integration. The rumor is that BMW will switch from this one-time fee to a subscription model in future vehicles. One of the main reasons that these smartphone integration methods make sense is that users can avoid buying expensive (and often sub-par) in-dash navigation systems.

[Ed. Note: On the plus side, according to the Monroney sticker, BMW apparently isn’t charging for “Refrigerant.” We also hear that the air in the tires isn’t yet part of a subscription-based program, so you’re like, saving money buying a BMW.]

Android Auto Being Left Out of New Models Updates

One cause for concern for the 43% of smartphone owners in the U.S. with ‘Droid devices, is that new models from important automakers seem to be only offering Apple CarPlay and not including Android Auto. For example, like in the new BMW models we mentioned, in the new Toyota Avalon, Lexus ES, and Corolla Hatchback, Toyota/Lexus only offers Apple CarPlay. We contacted Toyota about this “Droid discrimination” and the general vibe was “we are working on it.” However, we are not so sure. The real plan may be to instead hope users will be happy with Alexa integration instead.

Manufacturer and Model Updates

Now that Toyota has joined the party, as far as we can tell, the only “major” automaker not presently offering Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto is Mazda. The good news here is that Mazda is introducing both AppleCarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in the new 2018 Mazda6 in about half of its trims. Look for that to spread as Mazda updates its models going forward.

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John Goreham

John Goreham