BMW is why Apple should build CarPlay into iOS 12

CarPlay (Image credit: iMore)

CarPlay is Apple's driver-friendly interface for Maps, Messages, Music, and more. Through partnership deals with major manufacturers, CarPlay get embedded in automobile infortainment centers and then syncs over Lightning or Wi-Fi with our iPhones. There's a small licensing fee involved for the technology, but CarPlay is essentially free.

So, of course, BMW wants to charge customers $80 a year for it.

Tim Stevens, writing for CNET, calls it next-level gouging:

Instead of a one-time, $300 fee, starting on 2019 models BMW will charge $80 annually for the privilege of accessing Apple's otherwise totally free CarPlay service. You do get the first year free, much like your friendly neighborhood dealer of another sort, but after that it's pay up or have your Lightning cable metaphorically snipped.On the surface this is pretty offensive, and it seemed like something must be driving this. The official word from BMW is that this is a change that will save many (perhaps most) BMW owners money. Indeed, the vehicle segments where BMW plays are notorious for short-term leases, and those owning the car for only a few years will save money over that one-time $300. But still, the notion of paying annually for something that's free rubbed me the wrong way. And, based on the feedback we saw from the article, it rubbed a lot of you the wrong way, too.

John Gruber, responding on Daring Fireball:

It's patently offensive. If BMW goes through with this, you can never truly own one of their cars. $80/year isn't much compared to the price of the car, but on general principle this is way out there in Fuck You territory.

There have been calls for Apple to yank BMW's license or otherwise intervene to stop the jackassary being perpetrated under one of its brands.

I'd like to see something simpler and more flexible: I'd like to see Apple make CarPlay available directly in iOS.

You should be able to take an iPhone — or iPad, if you want something bigger — and mount it on your dashboard, and have it go into CarPlay-style interface mode.

It wouldn't have access to in-car Siri mics or the deeper aspects of the Infotainment system. If you want that, you'd still have to get a car with built-in CarPlay. But for people with cars that by virtue of their vendor or year don't have CarPlay as an option – or for people who don't want to pay BMW's insulting tax — it would offer at least a subset of important functionality on-device.

Still, Siri's verbosity would be amped up. Screens for Maps and Now Playing would be made bigger and much more glanceable.

Doing that would take pressure off of consumers and put it squarely on vendors who, if they want to offer CarPlay as a value-add, would really have to make it a value-add to beat the on-device experience.

Good screens. Good capacitive touch. Good, beam-forming mics. Good integration with the speaker system.

That way, the very next time a BMW tried to charge a customer $100 a year for CarPlay, the customer could get in, mount their iPhone, bring up the on-device CarPlay, blare Cee-Lo Green. And peel away.

Google has already done this with Android Auto. I'd love to see Apple do this with CarPlay in iOS 12

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Geez! Yeah, CarPlay was included FREE on my BASE MODEL 2017 Subaru Impreza... I realize a Subaru isn't a BMW, of course, but that's also kind of my point.
  • I'd be concerned that if Apple started making it work as a stand alone, more carmakers would be tempted to do what BMW is doing, and make the consumer choose to pay for its integration into the rest of the car. Smacking down BMW's abuse of the system would send a far superior message to the automakers.
  • "You should be able to take an iPhone — or iPad, if you want something bigger — and mount it on your dashboard, and have it go into CarPlay-style interface mode." You mean like you can with Android Auto?
  • Yes, except not made by the World's largest ad network.
  • It's hard to imagine Apple not having considered this idea. So the question is why didn't they? Sounds like a good topic for an article if you can find out the answer.
  • If you lease a BMW for 3 years, then you'd be paying $160 instead of $300 for CarPlay. But $80 a year if you buy the car makes absolutely no sense whatsoever--it's not like BMW is actually doing anything for the $80 (unlike, say, concierge services). So my suggestion would be that once a car is bought rather than leased, only a total of $300 could be charged. However, it does seem reasonable to charge--perhaps even $300-- for building in CarPlay in a non-OEM Navigation System (if that's possible), but when ordering the full BMW Navigation, BMW should throw the **** thing in free. I would, however, pay a once-only fee for Apple Maps and Navigation in addition to BMW's, since Apple Maps offer alternate routes that often are more flexible than BMW's, even though BMW's system has improved immeasurably over the past few years.
  • Poor BMW is being abused by so many people! They’re just trying to make a buck and everyone is just picking on them for their entrepreneurial spirit. Think of the innovation that will be lost as a result of the draconian efforts suggested here! The suggestion that Apple should intervene will have an irreversibly chilling affect that will be felt for decades if not generations! People should encourage BMW to do more things like this. Charge for seatbelts, high beams, windshield wipers. If you want innovation someone has to pay for it. Might as well be people who can afford to spend their money indiscriminately. Think of it like the merchants of Venice contributing to the renaissance by supporting various efforts in arts and science. You should consider it a privilege to be a contributor to such noble pursuits!
  • "You should be able to take an iPhone — or iPad, if you want something bigger — and mount it on your dashboard, and have it go into CarPlay-style interface mode." YES!!! All of the data for CarPlay comes from your iOS device anyways. Building the limited CarPlay interface into iOS should not be a huge task for Apple. If this was done, everyone with an iPhone or iPad could start using CarPlay immediately. Users would not need to buy a new car, or an expensive new head unit, just to be able to use CarPlay... As they do now.
  • I put that very same Pioneer that is in the picture in my FR-S as it was a much better head unit than I could get from the OEM. The CarPlay integration is great and there is not a monthly charge. Though the FR-S isn't my daily driver, at least it stays more up to date that the crappy old Sync system in my 2010 F-150
  • It sounds like Apple shouldn't charge a license, and just verify vendors instead.
  • This doesn’t seem too dissimilar to Navigation Map updates, Sirius XM subscriptions, and just maintenance (particularly car dealers try to sell a service contract). And besides, doesn’t it make sense that BMW will need to maintain their software that enables CarPlay to work with their infotainment system? It might actually benefit BMW owners in the log run if BMW maintains their software to continue to work with the latest versions of CarPlay. We could label this “sustainability”.
  • The main downside I see is damage to aftermarket head units. Why upgrade when you can get the same UI for free? (Bigger screen, better experience, vehicular integration… besides all that.) Other than, the builtin options are just easier, especially the wireless ones (rarer but worth paying for an upgrade in a premium car). All that said, ya, renting a free™ service is enough to make never buy BMW.
  • In principle this idea is OK, but it ignores the elephant in the room: unless CarPlay allows alternative Mapping and Navigation systems to exist in its interface, it's pretty much useless. I recently got my first car that was CarPlay enabled, and abandoned it before my first trip was completed because I can't access Waze through it. Apple Maps is vastly inferior in every way to Waze - its traffic notification is much less responsive, it features very poor route selection and an even worse interface for viewing and choosing alternative routes while travelling, etc.