In-car infotainment systems like Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto are great because they require very little investment on the part of your vehicle's manufacturer. You plug in your phone, and the handset pretty much handles all the heavy lifting, pushing content to your car's display and speakers.
It's a beautifully simple solution, one that gets around the immediate obsolescence of technology that's actually built into your vehicle. It's not easy to screw up — though BMW certainly seems to be trying its hardest.
The luxury German automaker announced today (July 24) that it will begin charging for CarPlay functionality in new models, starting with the 2019 range. As the owner of a new BMW, you'll get a year of CarPlay free; after that, it'll set you back $80 per year, or you can buy 20 years worth for $300.
Let's be honest: nobody is going to pay $80 for a year of CarPlay (save for short-term lessees), given the way those options stack up. That means BMW is now essentially charging owners $300 for the convenience of using their phone through their car — something that's possible in a $17,000 Nissan Versa.
According to Engadget, BMW's reasoning for this controversial move is to keep vehicle sticker prices down. Instead, it seems to have drawn unnecessary attention; if the company had simply raised the base price on every model by $300, it wouldn't have shocked anyone, as cars tend to get a bit more expensive with every passing generation anyway.
As a result, this exercise ends up feeling like a larger play to drive customers away from Apple's OS and ensure they interact with BMW ConnectedDrive more than anything else. And what makes it particularly egregious is the fact that, again, BMW isn't putting research and development into building CarPlay — that's all done for them. It's the reason why CarPlay and Android Auto scale so well across all makes and models, at all price ranges. It's a versatile, cost-effective solution to make any car at least somewhat smart.
Though, to be fair, at least Android users aren't making out any worse in this equation; BMW never supported Android Auto begin with.