It’s an unwritten rule that the infotainment systems built into cars are terrible, but systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have saved many drivers from the monstrosities designed by automakers. Owners of some BMW vehicles have found themselves unable to access CarPlay lately, and that appears to be due to an outage in the company’s ConnectedDrive system. That’s a paid service, so owners have essentially paid BMW for the privilege of not using CarPlay in their luxury vehicles.
In most cars that support CarPlay or Android Auto, you get the necessary software support at a particular trim level. Then, you plug in your phone and it works — there’s nothing else to worry about. BMW is a bit different. It previously sold ConnectedDrive as an add-on feature at the time of sale, but more recently it switched to a subscription model. It opted to put CarPlay behind the subscription wall, and that’s becoming a sore point for its customers.
Drivers began complaining about CarPlay issues about a week ago. Calls to BMW support were futile, and no one could tell affected people what was wrong. Inevitably, technicians pointed to the phone as the culprit rather than the car. Now, drivers have gotten together and worked out that the CarPlay outage coincided with ConnectedDrive problems. Without ConnectedDrive, the car can’t validate that the user has a license to use CarPlay, and it fails to start.
@BMW @BMWUSA please make an official announcement about #ConnectedDrive and #CarPlay issues. Your techs say it’s system-wide with no ETA for fix, and I wasted 2 hours of my day figuring that out. Your silence on the issue is concerning, aside from being bad customer service.
— Ethan Ede (@ethan_ede) May 9, 2019
Reports around the internet suggest both subscribers with new 2019 cars and those with older one-time purchase systems are having issues. It’s not a universal problem, but it affects a fair number of owners. BMW has yet to make an official announcement about ConnectedDrive, but techs have started confirming there is a problem when customers ask. There is no ETA on a fix, though.
Automakers have been anxious to monetize in-car infotainment systems — drivers are a captive audience, after all. However, the advent of automotive systems from Apple and Google have made that more difficult. Most car companies are hesitant to arbitrarily lock features behind a subscription, but BMW is charging $80 per year for ConnectedDrive. You’re not going to have a lot of luck selling entry-level Toyota drivers on a subscription for their cars, but BMW buyers might take you up on that. Of course, it has to work properly.
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