BMW Brings iPhone Apps To Dashboards

Drivers of newer BMW and Mini Cooper cars will be able to access their iPhone's music apps from the dashboard.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

March 27, 2013

3 Min Read

Mobile World Congress 2013: 9 Hot Gadgets

Mobile World Congress 2013: 9 Hot Gadgets

Mobile World Congress 2013: 9 Hot Gadgets(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

BMW wants to be known for designing and manufacturing the ultimate entertainment machine. On Wednesday BMW announced a host of new apps that can interface with its cars' infotainment center, allowing iPhone owners to port even more of their content to the car's dash-based controls.

The latest BMW-approved apps include Audible, Glympse, Rhapsody and TuneIn Radio.

"We regularly identify apps that our owners rely on as part of their everyday life, and adapt them for an in-vehicle experience they'll find safe, useful and engaging," said Phil Johnston, product manager for the BMW Group Apps Platform from the BMW group technology office.

BMW Apps is an optional software package available in BMWs and Mini Coopers with model years 2011 and up. The idea is to let the driver access their phone's core features in a way that's safer than interacting directly with the device in the driver's hand.

[ Would you wear an Apple iWatch? Read Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly. ]

With BMW Connected Apps, drivers can already access Facebook and Twitter updates; view upcoming calendar appointments; listen to Pandora, MOG or Stitcher (music apps already approved for the service); as well as access standard telephony functions such as the phone and contacts apps. There's even a Last Mile app that helps BMW drivers find their car in large parking lots.

Apps that are certified for use with BMWs and Mini Coopers are adapted to the BMW iDrive user interface on the dashboard, which can then be controlled by drivers via the iDrive knob. The iPhone itself is plugged directly into the car via USB and can be stored somewhere safe.

"Integrating access to digital spoken-word content from Audible was the next logical way to expand audio entertainment for drivers," said BMW's Johnston. "The ability to use the Glympse app from the existing vehicle controls enables drivers to share their whereabouts and ETA in a much safer way."

Music is already a big part of BMW Apps' service, with some notable apps already on board. "By partnering with Rhapsody," said Johnston, "we are delivering music to our owners in user-friendly formats they prefer." The same goes for TuneIn Radio, which streams Internet radio stations to the iPhone, and, through BMW Apps, the car's stereo system.

BMW Apps work differently from competing services, such as Ford SYNC. SYNC is used to access car functions through voice recognition, though some SYNC packages (there are four) can access phone apps, too. Ford's service works with a much larger number of devices. SYNC is compatible with the iPhone and with dozens of Android smartphones, including the Motorola Atrix HD and Droid 4, Kyocera DuraCore, various BlackBerry 5, 6 and 7 models, and Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. BMW hasn't said if or when it will follow suit and certify BMW Apps for devices other than the iPhone.

According to BMW, the new apps approved for use with BMW Connected Apps today will need to be updated by their respective developers before they are fully functional with BMW's cars. BMW did not say how soon those updates might arrive.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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