Last week MINI introduced the new MINI Connect option on the Countryman crossover. The idea is the first of its kind in the automotive world. The idea is that your iPhone (more on that in a sec) plugs into the car via the armrest. This charges the iPhone and provides a connection to the roof antenna and a hardwire connection for all the data. The iPhone is still via Bluetooth so all the functions normally supported by MINI via Bluetooth are still there.
Why just the iPhone? According to sources MINI has approached several manufacturers but Apple has been by far and away the most helpful in development so at this point the iPhone has the priority. Being the smartphone market leader doesn’t hurt either. However MINI is also working on integrating newer Blackberry handsets in future updates. What’s unclear is whether the first cars with MINI Connect can be updated later to accommodate new phones (i.e. Android handsets).
The option debuts with the R60 on the show stand this week in Geneva but will technically reach market first in the US with the R55, R56 and R57 refreshed models that hit the market in September. That’s right, MINI Connect will be available across the entire range. It can be head with or without Navigation but we’re told that the large screen that comes with NAV really makes this option come to life.
But can you update your current MINI? In a word no. Our sources tell us that retrofitting the option is simply not in any way possible.
However there is some more good news. As we mentioned last week MINI Connect is a framework for not just a web radio application but for many applications. We expect email, the web, twitter, Google send to car and SMS to name just a few. Sources also tell us to expect MINI’s own app store to eventually debut. Does this mean independant developers can create their own apps? That’s unknown at this point. The downside of course is that a crashing phone’s operating system is one thing. Crashing a car’s OS is something completely different. It would be our guess MINI would maintain tight control over the entire system.