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Is MINI Giving Apple’s CarPlay the Cold Shoulder?

Apple CarPlay Maps

Apple’s long awaited CarPlay is finally here and everyone’s favorite small car seems to be oblivious to it. Is that by design or was MINI caught flat-footed?

Given our conversations with MINI and BMW engineers over the past few years it’s clear to us that MINI and BMW are taking a wait and see approach with the technology integration. But it’s not due to BMW being caught off-gaurd. While it’s true that Apple has often been very very late to notify its partners about car related technology (Siri integration being a good example), our sources are telling us that Apple worked directly with automotive partners ahead of the CarPlay debut in Geneva earlier this spring . We also believe that BMW (and MINI given that they use the same iDrive system) has been testing its own integration of the system. However that’s not the only thing that BMW is testing deep within the labs of it’s Munich headquarters.

BMW has long believed that a controller based input (iDrive) is a much safer method than touch screen. Independent testing (and BMW’s own) has proved this out with touch screens requiring more of the brain’s processing power to be interfaced with – not something that’s particularly good while driving. Because of this research, BMW has maintained it’s iDrive approach since its introduction since 2001. But maintain doesn’t mean remain stagnant. Along the way BMW hasn’t been afraid to dramatically refine the system with the most recent updates being seen in new BMWs and the F56 MINI just this year. The most recent addition (as seen in the new F56 MINI) includes a multi-touch controller that allows for pinch and zoom along with hand-writing recognition.

Is it perfect? In our experience with the F56 system (and with similar BMW systems) the answer is a resounding no. But given what else is out there in the automotive landscape we’d call it one of the best in the marketplace.

That leads us to CarPlay. It’s a system that works both with touch-screens as well as controller based interfaces. And while we’ve only used it for a brief moment, the promise of a seamless integration into your iPhone’s music, phone and mapping apps is compelling.

But integrating all of that functionality into the existing system could get complicated. For one it’s basically an operating system within an operating system which creates additional complexity for drivers. That means that a driver has to learn an additional interaction language and interface while operating a very complex and consuming device in a combative world (i.e. a car in traffic).

So what about the future of CarPlay and the similar Android system within the MINI? We’d wager that BMW and MINI have prototypes of both working right now in their labs. And from our time using the Mercedes platform and CarPlay (which features a controller similar to iDrive albeit not as good) it could be a compelling addition to the MINI’s interface. But in our minds MINI is right to take their time integrating the system into what is already a very complex piece of technology.

But the really important question is what does the customer want? And for that we turn to you the MF reader. Would you like to see MINI embrace CarPlay and Android’s own similar system? Or should MINI control its system by strictly controlling what type of interfaces and third-party functionality be allowed in?

Written By: Gabe

  • Simon Beckerman

    The idea that the I drive controller is more safe than touch screen in my opinion is pure nonsense. iOS, and in this case CarPlay won’t do anything else than placing virtual buttons on the dashboard. The ease of use is determined by how simple those buttons are designed. It is not possible, in my opinion (I have a mini, and my job is to do Apps), that controlling software with a joystick is going to be better than a good touch screen interface unless the software inside the touch screen is crap.

  • r_k_w

    I’m a software engineer, and I worked on integrating my company’s mobile app with BMW Connected. It was my first exposure to using a BMW Connected system. I think the user interface is appalling. You can see it reflected in the low user ratings of the BMW Connected app at the iTunes App Store and Android Play Store. The sooner BMW ditches their system for Apple or Android, the better.

  • Francis Gersbach

    IMO – I’m a huge MINI fan, I’m a huge Apple fan… not a developer, just love my gadgets but choose ease of use over complicated details…

    I would love to see CarPlay in the MINI, but understand BMW’s stance on iDrive… it can be controlled with MINImal distraction.

    I like the MINI in car interface, but it gets old quick and sometimes I think it’s a good thing… keeps your eyes on the road… imagine people on the road doing this in cars all the time looking at their pretty displays.

  • Francis Gersbach

    IMO – I’m a huge MINI fan, I’m a huge Apple fan… not a developer, just love my gadgets but choose ease of use over complicated details…

    I would love to see CarPlay in the MINI, but understand BMW’s stance on iDrive… it can be controlled with MINImal distraction.

    I like the MINI in car interface, but it gets old quick and sometimes I think it’s a good thing… keeps your eyes on the road… imagine people on the road doing this in cars all the time looking at their pretty displays.

    • Nick

      You don’t have to imagine this, it is reality already.

  • Andrea Gritta

    I will not buy a new car that does not include CarPlay.

  • VibezInTheCity

    I personally think that car makers should stick with what they know and make cars. Technology is developing at such a rapid pace that its almost impossible to keep up. If you could dock your smartphone (iOS, Android, Windows or Blackberry) in the car and use it as the brains then that would a Win-Win for everyone. Your infotainment gets upgrade with your new phone. Automakers can take that R&D budget to develop cheaper, flashier, lighter, more fuel efficient, etc…..

    • vitus

      You just described Android Auto. Its basically just a framework that uses your phone’s features and capabilities. This is really nice because you dont have to upgrade yet another OS (the car), when your phone upgrades with new features it is instantly available in the car. It also makes your preferences and user experience portable because your set-up goes with you when you take your phone to another car (2nd car, rental, etc).

  • Danishdriver

    That must be a resounding: Yes, please! Mini/BMW should embrace CarPlay as soon as possible. The option list on my next car purchase will definitely include CarPlay.

  • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer Matthew

    it’s basically an operating system within an operating system

    Remember when the mobile era was going to solve the in-car technology problem?

    But the really important question is what does the customer want?

    What the consumer wants is a fully featured platform agnostic in-car system. I imagine that’s a complicated and very expensive problem for manufacturers to solve for.

    IMHO, we’re still a long way away from the “ideal” in-car tech solution from the consumer’s perspective.

  • iancull

    I still find MINI’s “iDrive” non-intuitive; part of it is certainly that the selection moves opposite to what I expect – I turn clockwise to go down a list, but it goes up. Is it because it’s wrong, or is it because I was taught using BMW’s (and Audi’s) systems which both work clockwise=down. Who knows why BMW and MINI (“R” not “F”) move opposite way for the same turn; that’s a clear indication that BMW doesn’t really “know best” when it comes to these controls. I’m not convinced that Apple’s CarPlay is correct either, but at least if MINI implemented it then it would automatically get any improvements that Apple rolled out in software – right now all “R” MINI owners are stuck with 5+ year old controls and presumably no updates ever. The new “F” owners will be similarly stuck, in a couple of years.

    • Christian Sullivan

      I’m with you. I’ve long been frustrated with Connected and their entire infotainment/telematics system. (This is based on the previous Connected system, not the new one, YMMV)

      Inconsistent UI: Generally you scroll one direction to go up or down. However, if you use an iPhone connected to the USB port (not through the snap in), the music interface scrolls the opposite direction.

      Bad UI: If you are trying to create a system that is intuitive and doesn’t distract the driver from the road, information should be quickly accessible. However, this isn’t the case. As an example, while listening to music you receive a message. You want to play this message. Menu to go to the main screen, scroll to phone, depending on the state of the phone app you press left, scroll to messages, select, scroll to message, select, scroll to play, select. This is appallingly bad.

      Lack of updates: SIRI Hands Free was introduced how long ago? BMW/MINI even stated that they would be implementing it. Haven’t seen it yet. Own an iPhone 5? 5s? Forget about your media snap-in adapter.

      I have loved my MINIs, and will love the next one, but this is one area that BMW/MINI stinks on.

      • Cameron Love

        Siri Eyes Free has been available in 2013 BMW Models with iDrive 4.2 (NBT). You press and hold the voice command button on the steering wheel for more than two seconds. This is also available on the F56 MINI.

        Also, you can use a favorite key to get you directly to “Messages” in Office….So one button, select your message and you’re done! ;)

        But, I do agree that the system needs to be continually updated, and I hope that with 4G LTE coming to these cars in the coming years will allow for OTA updates using BMW Assist or something similar.

        • Christian Sullivan

          Sadly, none of this is relevant, since I’m in an “old” R60 with Connected.

          There is a system for updating the firmware / software, I’ve diligently updated each time they release a new firmware. Sadly, the updates were all minor bug fixes and no substantial changes have happened since launch.

  • Mark H

    I’m a techie guy(video game nerd, works in IT, etc.) but I just want a car…and I’ll allow it to play music too. Beyond that, leave the gadgetry to gadgets and get out of my car!

    • http://scott.greiff.org scottag

      Until you get an urgent text or email, or you need to make a call…

      • otter

        Virtually all cell/smart phones in use today have a hands free option, add to that Bluetooth is available on almost all cars if not standard. Who needs more than that? An urgent text? If it is an emergency they should call and leave a message if you don’t answer. We are making these things far more complicated than they need to be. IMO keep the fluff on the easily/cheaply replaced device e.g. smart phone and let the car be a car.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          I contend there’s no such thing as an “urgent” text or email. Not so urgent that it should take my attention away from driving, that is. If something is truly urgent, whoever is in trouble should be calling 911, not me. Most of these integrated infotainment systems are simply trying to make bad behavior (interacting with devices while driving) a little less dangerous, but it doesn’t really address the underlying problem — a plague of distracted drivers on our roads. Auto manufactures, including MINI, are trying to find ways to make what people are going to do anyway part of their peripheral vision, rather than a little screen on their lap. Unfortunately, this is driven by customer behavior, and so these systems have to have a bunch of “features” in addition for market appeal. It’s a gnarly problem to try to solve and unfortunately people in general aren’t going to behave better on their own, despite the facts about the risks they pose to themselves and others when using technology. Personally, I also prefer less integration in terms of mobile tech. Bluetooth for audio and a good spot on the dash to mount/charge my phone is all I want, but these systems appeal to other folks, so that’s fine too.

      • robble

        I hope you get a ticket answering your “urgent” text or email.

        • http://scott.greiff.org scottag

          I’m not suggesting you text and drive.

          If you were hardcore enough to “leave the gadgetry to gadgets and get out of my car”, then as soon as you get into your car and put your phone in airplane mode.

          It’s not too much to expect BMW to integrate Apple’s devices to the maximum extent possible. However, reading between the lines here, you get the acute sense that BMW would rather push their own platform rather than truly serve their customers.

          If, by the time I’m in the market for another car, MINI doesn’t have iPhone integration that trumps my current car, they will not make the sale. Simple as that.

  • http://about.me/bentyyc Ben Tsui

    What does the customer want? Well, this customer wants CarPlay in his MINI and BMWs…!

  • Robo

    BMW and MINI need to drop the stupid controller based system and go with a touchscreen and get Carplay into cars ASAP. The controller has never been intuitive and touchscreen system like Tesla is using is far superior.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Having spent some time with a Tesla recently I’d say the opposite. The Tesla’s system is downright dangerous by relying on such a vast area for a touch point plus a poorly design UI and taxonomy.

  • http://scott.greiff.org scottag

    BMW is wondering whether this iPhone thing will catch on or not. Makes sense!

  • Doubledown

    I’m not an Apple fan, so CarPlay has no appeal to me. Android has a larger market share, so they should look to appeal to the masses or a system that integrates both.

    • Soundzilla

      When it comes to supporting hardware, it isn’t about simply supporting whoever has the most market share, it’s about the number of form factors and consistency of features. Supporting iOS means accommodating for about four form factors and a common feature set and UI that is consistent across those form factors.

      Supporting Android means accommodating for dozens of form factors and different UIs and feature sets. You can have a wide choice of devices in Android, or a wide choice of accessories and support via iOS, not both. Supporting every flavor of Android device just isn’t cost-effective for many developers and OEMs.

  • Dave

    Car companies cannot keep up with the pace of technology. Carplay is the perfect solution. Mirror my phone to the display. Every time I upgrade my phone I have the latest GPS, internet connection LTE (in car hotspot), music, apps etc. Allowing standard mirroring protocols (iOS Carplay, Google, and Active Sync) seems to be the easiest solution.

  • John

    I think its obvious BMW & Apple aren’t getting along. The iphone 5 and later integration is completely missing from my 2013 countryman. They won’t even release the proper cable, they won’t write software that integrates it directly via bluetooth or usb (this is not a limitation of the hardware, this is an obvious decision at the software level). BMW is either lazy or making a play on their own systems, but there is no way this is an accident.

  • Bob S

    MINI and BMW should stick with something that will work with every smartphone. Bluetooth is all that is needed. If Apple doesn’t want to play that way, that is their call. To make a car obsolete due to inoperability with over 50% of the smartphones out there (in the US) would be a very, very poor business call. I can do everything with my old Windows phone via Bluetooth (music, text, phone, gps) and it’s not supported anywhere. MINI and BMW should spend the $$$ on what really matters – engineering, safety, and fun. If you want car integration, go buy an Acura or Google car that drives itself.

  • http://www.alphabetcityblog.com/ Jeff

    As one of the many, many Android users out there, I wouldn’t buy a car with CarPlay. I don’t even know if Apple has worked in any sort of interface for Android devices (I’d guess they would at least be intentionally gimped, with features missing), but I’d much rather have something that doesn’t come from the direct competitor of the phone I own.

    The future of car systems is in integrating more directly with phones. Already we have bluetooth for music and phone calls, but someday we could have navigation and other things streamed straight from your phone. That would be a big cost savings for users and would make the systems a lot more functional for more users.

    Platform-agnostic is the way to go both for now and for the future.

    • Dave

      I think you are missing the point. Carplay is not a OS in the car. Its mirroring a display from your phone. If you don’t have a apple device you would get the basic iDrive interface thats currently in there. If Google came out with their own version and the same with Microsoft it would be up to BMW to support the mirroring for them.

  • BEKEN

    This is crazy. I just want to drive my car and enjoy my drive and/or just get from point a to point b safely. Integration of all non-driving gadgets in a car is a distraction to the driver and reduces the ability for a driver to safely drive his/her vehicle.

    Being in the IT industry, I can appreciate the technology, but not convinced having all this stuff in a car is a good thing. I have been rear ended once in the past while stopped at a stop light and watching the guy in my rearview mirror behind me plow into me while he was busy looking up something on his GPS.

  • Guest

    I’m deeply awaiting CarPlay in a MINI… PLEASE!!

  • fishbert

    What would customers with Android devices (or “dumb” phones… or no phones) use if BMW/MINI integrated CarPlay into their vehicles? (or vice-versa, if they went with an Android-centric system)

    Seems to me that BMW/MINI has to offer an agnostic solution like iDrive no matter what, so why drive cost/complexity with iDrive + CarPlay when iDrive alone gets the job done?

  • David Williams

    The latest research shows iOS has fallen to around 10% of smartphone market share while Android is at 80%. You would think that MINI would want to add features that would apply to the largest number of possible customers. I personally don’t care if my iPhone attaches to my car through anything but bluetooth so I can answer calls, but I do love my MINI and if features drive sales then the features need to appeal to the most customers possible.

    • r.burns

      Buy an iphone instead of your anti-ergonomical /anti-intuitive android smartphone…

      • David Williams

        If you read my comment I have an iPhone. I also have an android phone for work and of the two the android is far superior. This discussion really isn’t about which phone is better though, it is about how short sighted BMW/MINI are for neglecting 80% of the market. I think this fact is well supported by the number of posts on MINI boards from new owners wanting to know why their android phones are not supported.

    • Guest

      The latest research also shows that iOS users are wine-drinking frequent flyers, while Android users prefer beer and tend to take the bus.

      Which target audience would you rather support as a premium automobile manufacturer?

  • Rick Roberts

    I bought a 2013 MINI R58 S off my dealer lot a year ago. Connected was included. I still had an iPhone 4S and I assumed (I know) iPhone 5 support would naturally follow, soon. I thought the armrest mount was cool, but I knew an iPhone upgrade was in my future, so I didn’t buy the cradle, thinking “surely, they’ll release an updated cradle”.

    I annoy MINI sales and marketing types every time one shows at a club event. The latest word seems to be no iPhone 5 support for my 2013 MINI. I have a one-year-old car that has a major feature that’s orphaned. My bad, not MINI’s. There were other cars on the lot without Connected.

    It’s an annoyance. I should have known better. My new iPhone 5s sort of works with Apple’s adapter — sort of.

    Last week I grabbed an iPod Touch 4th Gen on eBay, just to use with my MINI. I share wifi to it from my phone. Mostly, sort of, works. I’ll leave it with the car when I sell it.

    I recommend new buyers stick with the aux port and Bluetooth.

    • Pfarinelli

      Mini has decided not to release a lightning to usb/stereo y cord for we poor souls who have an r-5x and iPhone 5. They are recommending we use the 30 pin connector with lightning adapter. The sound quality is poor. The first stab at the snap in adapter for iPhone 5 and mini connected didn’t work. Mini has now,in the f56 gone away from the y splitter so you can just plug in the lightning to usb and everything works. I really wonder what is taking them so long to release the cradles. There are aftermarket cords on eBay that work. Wonder why mini can’t make it happen.

    • Soundzilla

      Same here. One year after buying my R58 and no support for iPhone 5. If they don’t get their stuff together by the time I’m ready for my next one, I may switch brands. There are a lot of cars out there. I want a car that’s as connected and modern as the world we live in but still has everything that makes driving fun. Sad to see MINI falling behind as they are.

      • Rick Roberts

        The switch to the 4th Gen iPod Touch fixed the audio quality problem for me. You can get them used on eBay or refurbished from Apple with a warranty. You have to be patient to find them on Apple’s Refurbished product page. Go to the Apple store web site and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the link to the refurbished products. The 30 pin 4th Gen iPod Touch appears and disappears on the site. I expect that they will all be gone, soon. eBay also requires patience. The sellers tend not to make a distinction between units of different capacity, so just go for the 32 GB unit for about the same price. Be prepared to lose a few auctions before getting one at a reasonable price. You should save about $50 on Apple’s refurbished price, but you will not get Apple’s warranty. The 4th Gen iPod Touch will run the Connected app, if more slowly than you might like. You’ll need to share WIFI from your iPhone’s (or Android’s) Hotspot feature, to get Connected working. This model iPod Touch is stuck at iOS 6, but that’s consistent with where your MINI Connected setup will forever be frozen in time.

    • Rick Roberts

      The switch to the 4th Gen iPod Touch fixed the audio quality problem for me. You can get them used on eBay or refurbished from Apple with a warranty. You have to be patient to find them on Apple’s Refurbished product page. Go to the Apple store web site and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the link to the refurbished products. The 30 pin 4th Gen iPod Touch appears and disappears on the site. I expect that they will all be gone, soon. eBay also requires patience. The sellers tend not to make a distinction between units of different capacity, so just go for the 32 GB unit for about the same price. Be prepared to lose a few auctions before getting one at a reasonable price. You should save about $50 on Apple’s refurbished price, but you will not get Apple’s warranty. The 4th Gen iPod Touch will run the Connected app, if more slowly than you might like. You’ll need to share WIFI from your iPhone’s (or Android’s) Hotspot feature, to get Connected working. This model iPod Touch is stuck at iOS 6, but that’s consistent with where your MINI Connected setup will forever be frozen in time.

  • JT

    It’s seem so obvious to me that Mini need to implement carplay. I wont buy a new car until it is available.

  • Kristin Sanchez

    I’d honestly love to see this. I don’t own a mini currently but intend to sometime soon. When previously in a mini, the interface is rather “boring” &, being that my current vehicle also has a touch screen & all that fancy jazz, I would love nothing more than for my phone to be integrated in a more seamless manner. Unfortunately I am still required to “touch” my phone or the on board screen & well, that totally defeats the purpose. Luckily my vehicle disables all touch when in motion, however you can still use voice commands. THIS is what I would absolutely love about having carplay, if of course this was included; being able to use your phone for options such as sending/receiving text messages (so long as they’re read aloud of course & voice recognition for text actually worked) & being able to talk to Siri & give commands. That would be absolutely excellent in my opinion.


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