This summer, BMW shocked the world when it announced that it would be charging an annual subscription fee of $80 to unlock the use of Apple CarPlay starting with 2019 model year vehicles going forward. The reaction was something of a PR nightmare, and websites in the tech and automotive spheres alike covered the story with a near universal tone of disapproval. Why was BMW, of all automakers, charging for a service that is free in just about any other car that comes with it?

Within the various articles that ranted about BMW’s edict, many admitted that an extra $80 a year, or $300 for twenty years, wasn’t really much in the grand scheme of things, and cost of ownership associated with BMWs and comparable luxury brands. The sentiment still stung though, and even though the court of public opinion had effectively freaked out at the news, BMW stuck to its decision. Owners were not happy, and after the first (complimentary) year had passed, CarPlay would be be remotely disabled, preventing further use.

Everything changed last week, when according to Car and Driver and numerous other automotive news media outlets, BMW reversed course and decided to keep the service free—the change was effectively immediately. In a recent article on the subject by Car and Driver, BMW is quoted as saying most 2019 model year owners remain within their first-year trial period, and that those who have had the service deactivated in their car should soon see it reappear. Anyone who paid for the subscription will be refunded, and if you’re in the market for a BMW, CarPlay comes standard—and is free to use—with cars that have iDrive with navigation.

BMW’s reasoning behind charging for the service was reportedly related to frequent and regular updates designed to ensure continuity with all of Apple’s own updates. Compared to other carmakers, BMW’s CarPlay system boasts a serious advantage, in that a driver’s iPhone does not need to be physically connected for CarPlay to work, eliminating the need for the cable that every other CarPlay-capable vehicle requires.

Reversing the previous decision to charge for CarPlay is a welcome development for consumers, but it’s an even wiser move for BMW. Along with AndroidAuto, CarPlay is an excellent tool to mitigate distracted driving, seamlessly allowing necessary information to be delivered to drivers without distracting them from the task at hand. It’s already hard enough for people to put their phone down in the midst of driving—why make it any more difficult?—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]



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