BMW is moving to end the availability of subscription-based Apple CarPlay connectivity in favor of including the feature as standard on its latest models. Previously, the German manufacturer charged a one-time fee before eventually moving to a yearly fee to use the service. The change was first reported by the U.K.-based AutoCar, but a BMW spokesman later confirmed the change to Cars.com.
“This change applies to the U.S. market for 2019 and 2020 model-year vehicles equipped with Apple CarPlay,” spokesman Oleg Satanovsky wrote today in an email to Cars.com.
Current owners with a subscription to Apple CarPlay “will, very shortly, no longer have to pay for a monthly or annual subscription,” Satanovsky continued, but he added that the process “may take several weeks to complete for existing accounts.”
Starting with the 2019 model year, BMW gave the first year of Apple CarPlay for free, so many existing subscribers have not yet been charged. BMWs with CarPlay — included with an onboard navigation system — will convert to a lifetime subscription “over the next few weeks,” Satanovsky said, regardless of whether they have a current active subscription or not.
We were mostly against BMW’s move to a subscription-based inclusion of Apple CarPlay, with more than 70% of our staffers against the idea in any form. Some may argue that a BMW shopper should be able to afford the $80 annual subscription — or a lifetime subscription for a reported $300 — it’s hard to justify asking customers to pay for a feature that’s included standard on many far less expensive vehicles.
Asked if those who previously paid for the lifetime subscription will get any refund, Satanovsky said BMW does not yet have an answer.
The story leaked yesterday but “no one was prepared with all of the finalized details,” he said. “All we can do right now is confirm that it is for the U.S. market and for [model-year] ‘19 and [model-year] ‘20 cars.”
Mini, a subsidiary under the BMW Group, also charges a subscription for Apple CarPlay, though its complimentary period runs four years instead of one. A spokesman for the brand told Cars.com that Mini now plans to give complimentary lifetime CarPlay once the trial period runs out; new Mini models with the feature will also do away with a subscription. It was not immediately clear when the brand made this decision. (BMW Group’s third brand, Rolls-Royce, does not offer Apple CarPlay.)
Android Auto, a similar integration for Android smartphone users, remains unavailable among all three brands.
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Editor’s note: This article was updated Dec. 6, 2019, to include Mini among BMW brands planning to offer Apple CarPlay for free.
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