Opinion: Is there Room for iOS on iDrive?

On Monday Apple announced what many had been waiting for for years. No not a complete re-think of iOS but Apple ‘s long awaited iOS In Car. The idea is simple – plug an iPhone into your car and turn your car ‘s screen into a display for a automotive grade version of iOS. Great right? It ‘s an touch operating system everyone knows and one that tends to work well. But it ‘s not quite that simple for BMW and there are reports online that have BMW backing away from injecting iOS into their car ‘s infotainment system. Since BMW has invested in years and years of iDrive and the underlying tech and user controls associated with it simply flipping the switch on a touch based system isn ‘t really easy. But based on what we know that doesn ‘t mean BMW isn ‘t interested or hasn ‘t been working with Apple.


I think it ‘s generally the right thing to do for BMW to control the in-dash experience. But it would be interesting to see BMW and other automakers find a middle ground with Google and Apple. Wouldn ‘t it be great if I could plug in my iPhone or Android device when I click maps on my BMW it goes to the phone ‘s mapping software – controlled by the new iDrive touch interface so there ‘s no need for a dangerous touch-screen scenario. Same with music, phone and contacts as well. But at the same time I don ‘t want my phone trying to run my car. Frankly it ‘s impossible. Therefore iDrive could continue to control all the complexities of the car – something it ‘s particularly good at – leaving your iOS to handle what it ‘s good at.

Lets face it. the speed of software progress should be de-coupled from the car as much as possible. Software updates should be valid for 2-4 year old cars giving them new features and better user experience much like Apple has done with it ‘s iDevices. Given consumer ‘s increasingly high expectations of anything digital it ‘s a model that automakers need to embrace. Or to put it another way, the first one that does will be noticed.

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  • BimmerFile_Michael

    Personally, I think BMW has been well ahead of the curve in all that it does with iDrive and Connected Drive. They have such complex routing software for the i3/i8 and solutions that are car centric Apple just will not have for years- we’ve all seen the debacle that was MAPS for IOS- it sucks. BMW already has had many of the features iOS for the car is touting, like sending maps and sending maps to your device for the last kilometer (to walk to your destination from a parking lot )

    Touch screens do not belong in the car, research shows it (independent research in fact) that eyes leaving the road and fiddling are much more substantial with touch screens. Just think about all that you can do with iDrive without your eyes leaving the road- can’t do that with a touch screen.

    The one advantage iOS may have is that 3rd party apps would be more prevalent but at the same time do we really need 3rd parties invading the car and at what cost will that be to hackers, and safety as BMW tests and tests software for ages before it ever hits the consumer market in iDrive/Connected Drive and let’s be honest app builders may or may not invest in that.

    BMW is also heading towards open source with the net generation of iDrive- GENIVI and that will open things up a bit more.

    The other point is that do we really want every car to be the same?

  • Kevin

    iOS in the Car isn’t a touch system – at least it doesn’t have to be. It uses the controller of whatever car it’s in. I’m really bummed that BMW isn’t supporting this.

  • In reality, what Apple announced last Monday, was completely out of the blue for developers and car makers alike. They hadn’t even seen iOS7 yet, let alone any of it’s features including iOS-in-car so why would BMW be eager to commit to something so new without a little more research and testing. Secondly, I don’t think anyone is saying your phone should control anything car related e.g. settings etc. What consumers are seeking is a simple, safe, efficient and reliable U/I for listening to music, making phone calls and some sort of navigation. The iPhone already does all three of those quite effectively and we’ve become accustomed to the interface since 2007. Yes, iDrive does all of those too, but it’s, still, not even close as intuitive as the iOS interface in my opinion. Features already present on Connected like Google Send to Car are nice but still clunky to use on the fly. What we, as consumers, dream for is a communication between your phone and car that allows us to easily access and customize our entertainment, communication and navigation options. This was the dream for the Connected system but almost three years in, other than multiple ways (Pandora, Stitcher, Web Radio etc.) to listen to streaming audio content, the features are sorely lacking. Facebook and Twitter integration in the dash are poorly integrated and unnecessary, in my opinion. BMW and other car makers should stick to the basics of how people actually interact with their cars and stop adding useless, gimmicky features. Opening up to iOS-in-car could allow consumers to actually choose the features (apps) they want to use for phone, audio and navigation integration. If BMW chooses NOT to allow iOS-in-car, the only option left is for BMW to make a U/I that’s better than the one we’re used to on the iPhone. This is not likely so I agree with Gabe, BMW will eventually partner with Apple for some sort of integration while, at the same time, maintaining proprietary in-dash features.