Prestige brands play to a different set of rules compared to mainstream players. While some of Australia’s cheapest cars include Apple CarPlay connectivity as standard, BMW intends to buck the trend by making the feature a subscription service.
The move follows BMW North America’s change to a annual fee for CarPlay access, with BMW Australia suggesting that an annual charge of $150 will be put in place on future models.
Available as an option in most new BMWs, the popular system allows iPhone users to access apps and phone functions via their car’s touchscreen - transforming into a simplified version of the phone’s interface for phonebook contacts, music, mapping and other key services on the road.
CarPlay (and the equivalent Android Auto system) has caused a stir within the car industry, with many brands including Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki, Renault, and Mitsubishi fitting it as standard to their most popular models.
Other mainstream makers like Toyota and Mazda have so for shunned the system, although Mazda has claimed that it will introduce CarPlay at some point, while the North American Toyota Avalon has become the first model for the brand with the system.
Many luxury marques sit in the middle, offering CarPlay as an optional extra.
Some brands charge hundreds of dollars for access to the service, climbing all the way to the $6790 Ferrari asks to fit CarPlay to a 488 GTB coupe.
The move to an annual charge will see that rate fall slightly with a suggested annual charge of about $150 per year.
BMW North America technology spokesman Don Smith made waves at the Detroit motor show this week, telling The Verge a flexible model reflects how people use technology.
“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 Australia spokeswoman Lenore Fletcher says BMW will take the same approach.
“It looks quite likely that that will be the case, it’s a similar change to what’s happening in the US,” she says.
While most cars require the use of a USB cable to access CarPlay, BMW’s service differs from most in that it can be used wirelessly in models such as the new 5-Series.
BMW has long justified placing CarPlay on the options list by saying that its own iDrive system allows more intuitive access to many of a phones functions and expanding the native system to include access via a console mounted wheel with handwriting recognition, improved voice recognition, or multi-touch screen inputs.
“A large number of our BMW drivers don’t actually use [CarPlay], It’s more intuitive to use iDrive 6,” Fletcher says.
“It will be interesting to see how many people take it.”
Car companies will continue to evolve the way infotainment systems work in coming years. General Motors is considering offering up cars as a platform for advertisers, while elements of Mercedes-Benz' new MBUX system is driven by commercial websites such as TripAdvisor.
Mercedes plans to offer a paid app store for its cars, effectively treating vehicles as a new type of mobile device, a system that Renault already offers on some vehicles overseas, but hasn’t launched in Australia.
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