Engadget Plugs In to MINI Connected

The MINI Connected system is old news to MINI fans and MotoringFile readers, but for the tech world at large, people are just starting to realize what MINI is up to in this regard. Criticism abound, like they do for any tech system, but at its foundation MINI Connected is a particularly innovative system in the automotive infotainment world. Specifically, that it’s scalable and extensible with new apps and updates delivered right through your iPhone. Has MINI gotten every detail right? Of course not, but the fact that the system can be updated in a matter of months, rather than years, is a huge leap forward in automotive tech.

Online tech magazine Engadget was on hand for the Paceman launch a few weeks ago, but in their review they chose to focus on the technological aspects of MINI’s new two door:

The line between whiz-bang functionality and an unnecessary distraction couldn’t possibly be blurrier, and for technology enthusiasts, we’re apt to see that line skewed a bit to the liberal side. It’s hard to deny that flashing LCDs, joysticks, toggles and smartphone interactivity add some level of distraction, but in the effort to push the envelope, we’re obviously fans of figuring out safer ways to install additional functionality — even if it asks for a bit more responsibility from the driver.

That’s the question, isn’t it? Commenters here on MotoringFile are often quick to point out with each new feature of Connected that it seems the last thing drivers need is one more distraction. What’s interesting from my perspective is what Engadget was able to shed some light on what is and isn’t being included in MINI Connected.

…there’s a near-equal amount of push versus pull when it comes to fielding app inclusion requests. “There are a number of companies begging us to include their apps on Connected, but being on the Product team, I’m always looking at programs already on the market that would make sense to integrate into a vehicle,” he said. While he stopped short of confessing the entire list of probables, he did acknowledge that Yelp is already in testing. Not surprisingly, MINI recognizes that points of interest only provide so much value; it’s the real-time reviews and social connections to venues, eateries and attractions that make the information truly useful to motorists.

I’m curious what MF readers think of this assessment. There’s no shortage of opinion of MINI Connected, but let’s open up this particular question. Think outside the box. What info would be of the most use? What entertainment is currently lacking. And to clarify, if you just don’t like the system or don’t see the point of it, we’ve heard all that before. How should MINI move forward with the system?

Meanwhile, check out the whole article over at Engadget.

  • Kev50027

    Support Android. Integrating a wireless charging system with wireless data would be ideal, no one wants to plug their phone into their car every time they need to go somewhere.

    • Lawrence

      Pretty much what Kev said. I don’t do Apple nor will I ever do Apple.

      • b-

        Wasn’t it reported that Android wouldn’t be supported until the F56 cars are out? I sure hope that there aren’t people who have Connected and can’t use it because they don’t like Apple, that would be sad and kind of funny.

        • It’s difficult to support Android in this system because of OS versioning and especially hardware fragmentation. Given the overall small take rate on MINI Connected in the first place, it’s a difficult business case to make in justifying the development expense. MINI can’t just include all platforms out of a sense of fair play. It has to be grounded in business logic. It has to account for the tech demands of users they have and the demographics of users they know they’re more likely to have. A handful of volunteers here on MotoringFile doesn’t actually equal sustainable demand for Android usage. With iPhone integration, MINI not only has a consistent OS to code to, they have consistent hardware to support and a really straightforward infrastructure for pushing updates to the system. None of that is impossible with Android, and no one is arguing that MINI shouldn’t support Android on fanboi principle, but those realities have to be acknowledged. That said, MINI has changed its tune over time, being first evasive about Android support to more recently saying “we’re working on it.” We may indeed not see Android support for the system until the F56, but to our knowledge, it’s not a hard and fast timeframe. Could come sooner. Could come later. May still not come at all if the numbers don’t add up.

        • b-

          Oh Nathaniel, I know why MINI went with iOS, it was more a jab at the poor Android users who will never get to use the Connected they paid for just because, “I don’t do Apple nor will I ever do Apple.”

        • Kev50027

          I didn’t get navigation because I’ve experienced a BMW nav system failing several times in several different cars. I’m not willing to spend an insane amount of money fixing something that doesn’t work as well as my phone. Any built in nav system will be out of date in a few years, (they don’t offer inexpensive modular hardware) so I might as well get better navigation for free on my Android phone.

          I love technology, and I love cars, but I’d rather have a reliable, simple car and just carry my tech in my pocket. I upgrade my phone far more than my car, so I get the best of both worlds.

        • Why would anyone buy navigation from a car manufacturer? Even if I felt like paying $100/year (or more) to update maps, why would I want to be stuck with maps that are only updated once or twice a year?

        • So, there’s no business-case for supporting what’s currently the most purchased phone on a global basis. Umm… Yeah. Makes sense to me.

          To be honest, if the programming APIs are stable, there’s no need to give a rat’s about the underlying hardware (here’s a hint: Apple doesn’t give -anyone- direct access to the hardware – it’s all abstracted via the APIs). Further, it’s not like Mini says “it only works with iOS 6” or “it only works with the iPhone 5” or “you need to wait for the next app-update for support of iOS X.Y” (or iPhone Z) – which they’d have to say if there was even the slightest merit to your OS fragmentation/hardware excuse.

          Just think what you’ve posted for more than two seconds. It makes no sense. It’s just a poorly thought out apologist excuse.

      • Kurtster

        Aaaaaand out come the Apple haters.

      • Kurtster

        Aaaaaand out come the Apple haters.

  • Cap’ Obvious

    I think you meant Engadget everytime you wrote Gizmodo up there.

  • les

    My phone automatically connects to the MINI when I get in (phone integration, and Bluetooth audio). Which for most of the time is really all I need to and from work, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to plug it up to get the MINI Connected features. Wouldn’t it be nice if MINI Connected knew I was entering my car, and the app just started? I’m also a MOG user, and having to close MINI Connected and switching back and forth between the two is not only annoying, but it can be dangerous. Another thing, why is it that in a BMW all you need is the basic Apple white cable to connect to the system, and the MINI requires the extremely short and expensive Y cable?

    I have no complaints about the systems usability considering there are only two buttons, and joystick. The forcemeter is fun to show off to friends. Twitter integration is great until it starts to read Conan O’Brien tweets about sex taps aloud in front my 9 year old female cousin. She comes back and asks her mom, “Mommy, what’s a sex tape”. Thanks MINI for not showing the entire tweet before I hit speak tweet aloud.

    As a developer it would be nice find some free time to create my own apps that would work within my MINI. Can I even do that?

    • Kurtster

      The MOG app for iPad is also incompatible with MINI Connected. I tried fruitlessly for a long time to get it to work until the guys at MOG told me I had to use the iPhone version if I wanted it to work.

      • Sounds like that’s on MOG though. They must not be using a single binary for their iPhone and iPad apps.

    • lex

      double click home button and you can switch between apps easily

  • The Gas Buddy app, or something like that, would be a great addition to MINI Connected.

  • When is Apple gonna let the iPhone allow MINI Connected to read my Text Messages and emails back to me using thr text to speech functionality of this system. My 1st Gen. Sprint BlackBerry Bold can do it. Whats their beef about adding this to the phones BT protocol??? Its a handy feature!!!

    • Dave

      The car can read facebook post and twitter.

      • Yes through the MINI Connected App however it can read texts and emails with certain phones via the Bluetooth sync with compatible phones like my old BlackBerry.

  • AMS

    How about offering Nav without Connected? That would be grand. Having to buy into to a system I’ll never use in order to gain access to one that I will is annoying.

    • It basically costs nothing. And remember they dropped the price of Nav $600 when they introduced connected as part of it. It’s much better to include it then to arbitrarily price it out as separate like BMW.

      • AMS

        How does it cost nothing? It’s a $1500 option to add Connected and Nav. Or $750 for Connected alone (which seems kinda useless to me), making Nav a $750 option on top of that.

        I guess if you’re buying the Technology Package, then you could argue that Connected costs basically nothing (actually $250, but okay) since you’re saving $500 over the cost of the options in that package individually. But then Nav is still another $750 on top.

        I keep going back and forth on whether or not I want to order factory Nav in my MINI. I kinda think I may prefer to just use the GPS on my phone, maybe mounted in one of those cool Craven Speed mounts that connect to the tach. All my music already comes from my phone; why not my trip guidance too?

        • Nav is $1500. It used to be $2100 before the 2011 model year. For those buying Nav it costs nothing. However for those who don’t need Nav they make it available for $750. Pretty straightforward.

        • AMS

          Sorry; misunderstood what you were saying.

        • I use Waze on my iPhone mounted on a Craven mount, it works great. It talks to me via bluetooth and the car audio. The main problem that I have always had with the factory nav options is the cost of upgrading. Now I really hope that my next Mini will include Bluetooth music streaming from my phone.

        • AMS

          Thanks for the report! Now that bluetooth is standard (in both phones and most cars, including MINI) it’s a bit harder for me to justify spending 10X the cost of a perfectly serviceable standalone GPS unit just to get something that (especially in the current MINI) is years out of date anyway.

        • May I chime in to AMS and Timothy Parker? Here’s your advantage of having MINI Connected even if you don’t have an iPhone. MINI Connected supports Bluetooth Wireless Audio Streaming so you can potentially have a setup with a mount for your phone you can have your favorite music playing while viewing your favorite Navigation through your phone and all Audio will be broadcast through your speakers with good quality. The alternative to having an iPhone and this can even be done with an iPhone. The MINI Connected system will even allow you to listen to your text messaging and email using the text to speech capability dependent upon what kind of phone you have. This is one feature I wish would work with the iPhone.

        • AMS

          Mark, Bluetooth audio from your phone is standard on the MINI now, with or without Connected.

        • AMS

          Mark, Bluetooth audio from your phone is standard on the MINI now, with or without Connected.

        • Cost and frequency of upgrades. I mean, even if I wanted to pay several hundred dollars for something that I could get for a tenth that price as a standalone, dedicated device – or for even less/free as an app on my phone – there’s still the chronic map-lag in manufacterer-supplied nav solutions. Phone-based mapping solutions like Waze automatically update their maps each month. Things like a Garmin or Nuvi only update a few times a year. Car manufacturer-supplied nav solutions update even less frequently.

        • ras550

          You can already do this using a stereo bluetooth adapter. It’s a small attachment that will plug in to your aux input, and you can charge it using the usb port or the cigarette lighter adapter. So a fairly simple solution that costs under $ 50 (search ebay and amazon for “car stereo bluetooth adapter”.

    • One upside to the Nav / Connected being conjoined is that it’s made Nav a less expensive option than it was in previous years.

  • SpiceyJCWCoupe

    I’d like weather maps to be integrated with Nav – via an app. I have been using Connected for over a year, w/Mog and it’s been great. I’d like to have more streaming music apps visible w/Connected.

    • That’s a great idea! You could even simulate the radar sweep from the car’s POV. It’d be like the weather radar on a big vessel or aircraft. Seeing the weather on the road ahead would be a major selling point.

    • Gary

      As Nathaniel envisions, a weather radar display on a map background would be awesome. I use the NOAA app on my iPhone all the time, particularly during the convective summer months. More than once I have changed my planned route when the radar is showing thunderstorm cells getting ready to cross my path down the road ahead. Displaying this on the MINI Connected screen should be an easy thing to do.

    • John

      I use an app called ForeFlight for when I go flying, it’s becoming a very well known app between pilots. It has weather overlays on the GPS maps. This can definitely been done for a car app.

  • Dave

    Jailbreak your iphone and use display out … best way to enjoy connected

  • So…when will BMW/MINI get their act together and release the armrest cradle for the iPhone 5? Only reports I read were on a thread from a British BMW dealer saying they were told 4th quarter of FY13…pretty irritating as we basically can’t use all the cool stuff in Connected on our R60…

  • Chris

    I’d like to see Spotify support (including offline mode). I have no interest in owning an iPhone, but do have an iPod touch that I bought for work (mobile web development / testing). Being able to control Spotify from the steering wheel would actually make it worth hooking up for Connected. As it stands, Connected is a useless feature that I had to take to get Nav.

    • You could partner that iPod Touch with a mobile hotspot or MyFi and that’d have you accessing most of the system’s features, I bet.