Roughly 18 months ago, we first brought you news that BMW would start charging an $80/month yearly subscription fee for CarPlay access starting with 2019 model year vehicles. Needless to say, the backlash from tech enthusiasts and BMW owners was swift, as CarPlay and Android Auto access are usually provided as standard equipment on relatively affordable vehicles from the likes of Hyundai and Kia.
BMW didn't back down from its decision, and the company's ridiculous move fell off the radar screen for a while. That was until late last month when BMW’s CarPlay powerplay once again drifted into the news after the policy first went into effect -- and it again drew outrage. This time around, however, BMW is going to greater lengths to explain why it is charging a yearly subscription fee when other manufacturers simply don’t.
Speaking with Car and Driver, BMW says that the $80/year fee goes towards ensuring that its vehicles remain compatible with future hardware and iOS releases from Apple, as it can't guarantee that "some new snippet of code" won't break functionality. In that case, BMW envisions that customers will come complaining to it instead of Apple, which could drive up costs on its end.
BMW also asserts that its newest vehicles support Wireless CarPlay, which brings with it a whole new set of challenges when it comes to support.
That is all well and good, but every other manufacturer absorbs these costs as the usual "cost of business" these days. Many customers simply expect to have CarPlay or Android Auto support, and with cars becoming even more reliant on computers for many functions, software glitches are to be expected. In my own experience, I took my personal vehicle in for its regularly scheduled maintenance and there was a technical service bulletin (TSB) for a security update on the infotainment system. It was applied free of charge and I didn't even know about it until I looked at my printout of services performed on the vehicle during its visit.
With CarPlay and Android Auto (something that BMW unfathomably doesn't even support at this time) increasingly becoming a standard feature on vehicles, BMW's move is even more puzzling. And as a company that is already known for nickel and diming customers on every little possible option/upgrade, the $80 a year fee is a step too far even for some diehard BMW fans.
However, BMW counters that the first year is free, and that most of its customers complete 3- or 4-year leases, meaning that they would pay between $240 to $320 for CarPlay. It also says that it will offer a 20-year subscription to CarPlay for $300. That seems like a much more palatable option for those that keep vehicles long-term, but it is still a silly fee most other auto manufacturers don't charge. In other words, it's the principle of the matter that is most confounding.
What say you Hot Hardware readers? Is BMW off its rocker, or is the company right about charging a fee for its ongoing costs associated with supporting and maintaining CarPlay?