BMW nickel and diming owners with subscription based CarPlay for $80/year

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Is BMW going to make you pay for Apple CarPlay every year?

Subscription-based CarPlay would join Alexa, Google Assistant in 2019 models

Unlike many automakers that offer Apple CarPlay in their new cars, BMW makes you pay for it on all of their models. That’s unlikely to change, but it may soon cut a break to those who don’t use iOS or don’t like Apple’s smartphone integration system for the car.

The automaker next year will turn CarPlay into a subscription-based service rather than treating it as a one-time option, Don Smith, technology product manager for BMW North America, told The Verge at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show on Tuesday.

“This allows the customer to switch devices,” he said. “A lot of people buy [CarPlay] and think it’s okay, but sometimes they stop using it or switch to Android.”

BMW added CarPlay for 2017 as a $300 option on cars equipped with built-in navigation. It introduced a wireless CarPlay setup with charging on the 5 Series last year, too, supported by the latest iDrive 6.0 interface.

Smith said the new plan would be free for the first year of ownership on a new BMW. After that, owners would be asked to pay $80 per year to keep the service. Over the course of a three or four-year lease, it would still work out to less money than the option is now, he said.

Currently, BMW doesn’t offer Android Auto on any of its vehicles. But Smith said Google Assistant is coming to new BMW models later in 2018. The company already announced it would add Amazon Alexa to its new models. Smith said more Alexa skills would be enabled later this year to control more than just basic vehicle functions such as locks and lights.

Apple has not yet responded to requests for comment.


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wow. And they dont offer Android Auto either? I thought TMC was only company in whole wide world based on the internet.

Joaquin Ruhi

Staff member
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The Detroit Free Press' review of the latest BMW 330i thoroughly lambasts their policy of charging for Apple CarPlay. Here are the pertinent excerpts from that article:

(BMW) locks down the title for “ultimate display of gall by an automaker.”

For 2020, BMW moved from its previous practice of charging customers once for a feature other brands made standard years ago to requiring an annual subscription fee, in perpetuity.

We’re talking about Apple CarPlay here. It’s standard equipment in vehicles including the Chevy Equinox, Honda Civic and Hyundai Sonata. I name those three competitors because you could buy one of each for less than the $58,925 sticker of the 330i I recently tested...

BMW makes the first year of CarPlay free, so you’ve got plenty of time to get hooked on how valuable the feature is. After that, BMW owners must pay $80 a year to keep the feature...unless you choose to pay an extra $300 up front for lifetime coverage.

The charges apply to every BMW that has a navigation system, including $100,000-plus vehicles like the glorious 8-series coupe.

It’s an avaricious policy customers should scorn and resist. Apple does not participate in the policy or get any of the subscription money BMW takes in.

In fact, Apple doesn't charge automakers a cent for CarPlay. The company considers it just another update to its iPhone operating system, like all the other free updates it provides. Automakers' only cost is the engineering to make the infotainment system compatible with iPhones...

BMW says its fee for CarPlay reflects the engineering changes it will make to keep the feature up to date as technology evolves.

That sounds sort of like the downloads to the features and operating system of your iPhone … except, of course, Apple provides those for free, apparently on the assumption that its customers expect their device kept up to date.

Even brand-new, the wireless application of CarPlay worked inconsistently. BMW’s process to pair your phone is also less intuitive than the leaders.

At some point, of course, Apple stops providing updates, as new features outstrip the hardware of old devices. BMW promises to keep updating CarPlay for 20 years, if you keep paying, but that promise will be sorely tested if Apple’s technology outstrips the car’s hardware.

Apple wasn’t involved in BMW’s decision to charge for CarPlay. Nor did Apple modify the feature so BMW can shut CarPlay off if you stop paying for updates.

BMW sold 232,427 vehicles in North America through September. If every owner paid $80 a year for CarPlay, that’s $18.5 million revenue a year for nine months’ sales in North America alone, and North America accounts for less than 15% of BMW’s global sales.

Even at German labor rates, that looks like a rather aggressive markup over the actual cost of sending an over-the-air or downloadable update like the ones most cars will soon get for many systems.

I hope BMW owners balk at the charge. If one automaker can get away with charging for CarPlay — and eventually its counterpart Android Auto — it’s only a matter of time before others do the same thing.

CarPlay works so well it should be available to as many drivers as possible.


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They want to farm the secondary car market. Used car sales do nothing for them aside from maintenance work to feed dealers, and as all these companies get better at engineering their stuff, they need to offset the impact to the dealer network and take a share for the parent.

Its slimy as hell, though, but understandable. In reality they need to keep it free for new buyers. First maintenance check the car comes in for, if the ownership data doesn't line up they log the first owner of the car if they hadn't pre resale. They can blockchain their way to winning hearts and minds.

It's complicated, but honestly $80 is such a small number relative to what they're charging you, it's somehow worse than if it was like 300 a year.