BMW is clearly looking to move to the next step of in-car electronics. With the new X3 (which the F20 1 Series and F30 3 Series will be loosely based on) BMW is introducing two Apple related accessories and one iPhone app that signal a seismic shift in the way they integrate electronics into new cars. Most media outlets are focusing on the iPad holder as the key piece. However, much more interesting to us is the iPhone integration both physically and in terms of software.

For years, long development cycles for cars have meant that technology was often much slower to find it ‘s way on a dashboard than in your living room. The simple fact that car companies spend years working on a car ‘s electronics before if even reaches the marketplace has historically put the industry behind when it comes to integrating modern technology. But that is slowly changing. And now MINI (with MINI Connected) and BMW (with BMW Link) have thrown down the gauntlet and said that the future lies on devices that are as important outside the car as they are inside.

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But why is BMW Link not just cool but brilliant? Because the features live on the device side (your iPhone) in the form of an App. Updates can be made at any time and pushed to the user over the air. That moves new entertainment features from the product side to the software side and that means it ‘s cheaper and easier for everyone.

For instance lets say BMW has a killer new feature that it wants to release on the 2012 3 Series. In the past that would mean that 2011 owners would be out of luck. Now it means they simply need to update their iPhone app.

On the MINI side the MINI Connected option adds a new 6.5” hi-resolution screen (the same as on the 2011 Nav system). Instead with BMW Link, the iPhone itself plays the part of the screen as well as the device that powers everything.

And as opposed to MINI Connected, the BMW Link app has been refined down to four primary functions:

– Navigation (we ‘re guessing this will be similar to the excellent Navigon Application currently available since they are the company that powers BMW ‘s current range of Nav systems)
– Music player functions
– Mobile Phone
– Connected Drive functionality such as breakdown assistance
– Google Local Search and News

If MINI Connected is any reference we expect BMW to expand its BMW Link app to both Blackberry and Android operating systems.

Look for the “BMW Station ” for the iPhone to be available on the 1, 3, Z4, X1 and X3 models. We ‘ll have more on the new options in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here ‘s an excerpt of the full Paris Motorshow ‘s press release that details the new options.

Official Release: Alongside the world premiere of the new BMW X3, the 2010 Paris Motor Show also sees the presentation of a host of Original BMW Accessories for this Sports Activity Vehicle. In spring 2011, a line-up of innovative products will be introduced for all model series which optimise the use of in-car infotainment and communications functions. The new components range from an attachment system – the BMW holder for the Apple iPadTM – to the BMW Car Hotspot, which enables wireless internet surfing while on the move over a WiFi connection.

Top-class in-car entertainment and communications: the iPad holder and WiFi hotspot. A selection of new additions to the Original BMW Accessories range have been specially developed for the use of internet-enabled smartphones, laptop computers and the Apple iPadTM and offer additional convenience, extended functionality and a higher level of integration for safe in-car use of mobile devices. The new BMW holder for the Apple iPadTM teams up with the base carrier of the Travel & Comfort System, which makes its debut in the new BMW X3 and will be available for all other model series from spring 2011, and allows rear passengers to make optimum use of both the office and entertainment functions of their iPad. Turning the holder by 90 degrees in either direction allows the position of the iPad to be adapted to the desired usage. The horizontal format is most effective for viewing photos or videos, for example. The vertical format, meanwhile, is the best choice for office applications, and in this position the tilt angle of the Apple iPadTM can be varied.

The BMW Car Hotspot, meanwhile, offers a new way of surfing the internet while on the move using a WiFi connection. This function is available from autumn 2010 both as an option from BMW ConnectedDrive and as a retrofit item from the Original BMW Accessories range. This innovative technology allows passengers to hook up to the internet using their smartphone, iPad, netbook or other device with WiFi access. The online connection is established by the BMW Car Hotspot. A data-enabled SIM card is either placed directly into the BMW Car Hotspot or fitted in a mobile phone with SIM Access Profile (SAP) which is integrated into the vehicle via the snap-in adapter. The encrypted WiFi connection then allows the passengers to surf the internet using suitably equipped devices. A stable online connection with virtually 100 percent coverage is provided by the seamless transition between the UMTS and GSM networks, and the connection is enhanced by the external vehicle aerial. Moreover, using the BMW Car Hotspot leads to a reduction in radiation levels inside the vehicle and extends the battery life of the mobile device.

Easy connection and an innovative application for the Apple iPhone.

BMW drivers keen to use their Apple iPhone as safely as possible, with maximum ease and to its full potential while on the move will welcome the arrival, in spring 2011, of additional items in the Original BMW Accessories range alongside the familiar snap-in adapter. These include the extremely high-quality BMW Station for the Apple iPhone, which has been specially developed for BMW models not fitted as standard with the iDrive control system. The BMW Station for the Apple iPhone is available for BMW 1 Series and BMW 3 Series models, the BMW Z4, BMW X1, new BMW X3 and outgoing BMW X3 with this specification. The BMW Station for the Apple iPhone is placed in an optimum position within the driver’s field of view and allows the mobile phone to be docked without visible cable connections. It also comes with a hands-free kit featuring a high-quality directional microphone and radio mute function for incoming calls, plus a charging function for the mobile phone.

A BMW-specific software application for the Apple iPhone will be available from spring 2011 as an ideal addition to the BMW Station for the Apple iPhoneTM. Optimised for in-car use, this BMW Link app combines the telephone and music player functions of the mobile phone with a navigation function and selected services from BMW ConnectedDrive, such as breakdown assistance, Google Local Search and News. To ensure that the functions deliver maximum benefit in the car and that the iPhone is optimally aligned, the BMW Station for the Apple iPhone can be used in horizontal format and offers a wide range of adjustment.