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 has thrown down the gauntlet with something called MINI Connected.
For those BMW fans out there don’t confuse this with BMW Connected. MINI Connected isn’t just an edge connection with a terrible in dash web browser attached. MINI Connected is an app on your iPhone that simply takes over the MINI entertainment system remotely. But better yet you can control the app from the MINI joystick located in the center console area (traditionally the input for the Navigation on all MINIs sine 2007).
But why is MINI Connected is not just cool but brilliant? Because the features live on the device side (your iPhone) in the for 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 MINI has a killer new feature that it wants to release on the 2012 MINI. 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.
MINI has released the UK and European versions of the app with region specific features. The US version will omit a few features initially but will ultimately add them with an App update.
Look for the app (which will be free for anyone to download) to be released in a few months on iTunes US.
We posted this recently but for those of you who missed it, here’s some background on MINI Connected…
A Closer Look at MINI Connected
The option adds a new 6.5â€ hi-resolution screen (the same as on the 2011 Nav system), Comfort Bluetooth (6NE) with Smartphone prep (6NF), a Combox control box (interface the iPhone with the car), Voice recognition (620), and a joystick controller to access all features just as the MINI Navigation uses. Currently, only the iPhone is supported, but the Android and Blackberry Smartphones are being planned as well for a later launch.
Despite what some reports have indicated you don’t need tethering. All the web traffic flows into the phone. From there the phone simply uses the MINI system to show content and play music. So when it comes to web radio all music plays directly on your iPhone and and is then sent to your MINI via the cable or Bluetooth.
MINI USA is pricing Connect rather aggressively at $1,000. Not bad considering that you get Comfort Bluetooth with armrest and Smartphone prep (a $750 + $100 value) in the package. That means you are getting all MINI Connected features, the hi-res screen with joystick controller and full iPhone connectivity for only $150 more.
Now let’s take a close look at what MINI Connect really is. First off the system has the ability to control the music in your iPhone or iPods music library and play it through the audio system. Accessing all your music on the screen is so much easier now because youâ€™ll be able to search by artist, genre and so forth.
Also, you can disconnect your iPhone or iPod from the cable and still listen to your music via Bluetooth wirelessly. This means you can literally walk away from the car and control your music with your iPhone from 20 feet away. And with the new system, the only cable you need is the standard iPhone cable that came from Apple.
Diving deeper into MINI Connectedâ€™s online functions, letâ€™s take a look at what can come through to your car. A audio feature called Webradio allows you to search for radio stations around the world by country, genre and so forth. From there just select the station and it’s streamed into the car.
You can also access RSS feeds (like MotoringFile’s for instance) with MINI Connect. Simply select playback and voice recognition will read out the text to you and continue on beyond what you see, playing back the entire article. While stopped, you can also read the whole news article.
The much maligned Mission Control is also a part of MINI Connected and features over 3,500 sayings. You can pick and choose what you want to hear and adjust the â€œenthusiasm levelâ€ by selecting your driving theme. In addition, the upgraded system will have a “MINIMALISM” Analyzer that gives you real-time hints for optimum fuel efficiency. Perhaps the most important feature of Mission Control? You can turn it off.
Another new feature is Dynamic Music. It allows you to choose from several beats and based on your driving conditions, can increase or decrease the intensity and rhythm, allowing you to literally create your own track while driving.
Also incorporated is Google Local Search. Here, you can search for common items such as restaurants, fuel stations and even post offices by location, type and even business name. When a result is found you can select it and if they have a phone number and address listed online, Google will display it right in your car.
And if you are a Facebook and Twitter fan, you can read recent posts just like the news feeds where limited text is shown while driving, but can be played back to you thanks to text-to-voice technology. If you are stopped, then you can read more. If you need to respond, MINI Connected can help you post with pre-populated responses based on information that it knows. For instance, you can simply choose from several sentences that will include things like temperature and vehicle speed. And if you have NAV, MINI Connected can even include your destination and current location. You could post something like this with just one twist and one click- â€œHey guys, itâ€™s 3:00 PM and Iâ€™m in my MINI driving Southbound to Main Street on this warm 74 degree day.â€
One of the best parts of MINI’s options pricing is that, for only $750 more you can get the full navigation system with real time traffic info. And remember this is a ground up redesign of the system with internal solid state memory and not DVDs. Maps can be updated through a USB port in the glovebox. As a stand along option MINI’s new Navigation system will list for $1,750 – cheaper than last year while including all the features of MINI Connected.