BMW has decided that it will charge customers an annual fee if they want to enjoy CarPlay in its newest vehicles.
It is the first car-maker to turn Apple’s platform into a subscription service. Most now include CarPlay as standard, or as an optional feature that lasts as long as the vehicle.
BMW is famed for its innovation and design prowess. Fans pay a premium to enjoy “the ultimate driving experience” — and they usually get the best technology with it.
The latest BMW 5 Series can back itself into your garage. The new 3 Series boasts laser lights and windows with acoustic glazing that promise to block outside noise.
And yet, BMW is behind everyone else when it comes to CarPlay.
BMW’s outrageous fees for CarPlay
It took BMW longer than most automakers to support CarPlay, and it doesn’t come cheap. The company charges $300 to add the platform to existing vehicles with a built-in navigation system.
If you want CarPlay in a 2019 BMW, you can forget that one-time fee. In fact, you’ll get to enjoy the first year for free. But every year of CarPlay access after that will cost you $80.
That’s a pretty outrageous ask. Especially when you consider that many vehicle manufacturers — even the more affordable ones — now offer CarPlay and Android Auto for free as standard.
Even those that do make CarPlay optional, and charge an initial fee for the upgrade, won’t ask you to keep coughing up for it every year.
Will it work?
It’s too early to tell whether BMW’s plan will pay off.
You might argue that if you’re paying a premium for a high-end vehicle, you can afford the $80 annual fee for a useful feature. But that’s besides the point.
BMW isn’t installing special hardware to enable CarPlay. So it would cost the German company very little to just activate it by default and offer it as standard on compatible systems.
Its decision to squeeze more out of the consumer is needlessly greedy. If it does pay off, it could encourage other car-makers to do the same. But here’s to hoping the market forces BMW to change its stance.
Does Apple allow this?
It’s unclear how Apple feels about other companies charging for access to its platform.
It’s understandable that vehicle manufacturers might charge a one-time fee to install any necessary hardware that is required by CarPlay. So Apple probably doesn’t have an issue with that.
But charging an annual fee to offer what should be a free service in vehicles that already support it is uncharted territory. We don’t yet know what Apple’s policy is on that.
We’ve contacted Apple for comment and we’ll update this story as soon as we get a response.