BMW has backflipped on a contentious point of in-car connectivity by making the Apple CarPlay suite free for customers.
The move represents a win for consumers, and could prove pivotal as manufacturers move toward month-to-month payments for subscription-based services in new cars.
European brands including Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen have expressed interest in pay-as-you-go services such as premium entertainment, active cruise control, and auto high-beams that can be optioned by customers after taking delivery of the car.
But consumer push-back surrounding BMW’s CarPlay fees could make manufacturers think twice about the new cost model.
Fitted at no cost to the cheapest Kia and Hyundai models, Apple CarPlay was a costly option for BMW customers forced to pay subscription fees to access the service.
It allows iPhone users to access trial features such as calls, messages, music and podcasts through their car’s infotainment display.
Video and social media services are not available through CarPlay, which reads text messages aloud as opposed to displaying them on-screen.
Customers on Android smartphone platform can access similar features through Android Auto. Like CarPlay, Android Auto is offered by many manufacturers.
But BMW does not cater to Android users and it asks iPhone owners to pay to access Apple’s service – originally, as an optional extra, before deciding customers should get one year of coverage for free before paying $479 for three years.
The manufacturer now says new BMWs will come with unlimited CarPlay as standard, and that people who previously paid for a temporary subscription will receive the service for the duration of the car’s life.
It says the change is “based on customer feedback” causing it to re-evaluate and realign “the Apple CarPlay offering”. BMW previously defended its decision by saying many customers do not use Apple devices and those who do may prefer not to access their phone through CarPlay.
BMW was also the first brand to offer wireless CarPlay (other cars need USB connections), though that feature is also offered by Audi and Volkswagen, with more to come.
While mainstream manufacturers – and most luxury rivals – offer CarPlay for free, BMW is not alone in charging for the service. Jaguar Land Rover charged customers $495 for the service until recently, while Ferrari slugged customers $6790 for CarPlay in its 488 GTB coupe.
Toyota recently made CarPlay standard for a range of models including the current-generation Prius, Corolla, Camry and (though existing owners need to spend $199 to have it retrofitted). New RAV4, Granvia and HiAce customers get the tech for free, even if it wasn’t on the car at the time of purchase.
Mazda now offers CarPlay in new models, while it can be retrofitted to modern examples for $495.
Originally published as iPhone users benefit from shock backflip