iDrive vs. CarPlay vs. Android Auto: Which Is Best for Your BMW in 2020? – 4×4 Shop Canada
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iDrive vs. CarPlay vs. Android Auto: Which Is Best for Your BMW in 2020?

A decent infotainment system is a must for any modern car intended for everyday driving. The major auto manufacturers have all cottoned on, each developing their own systems in-house and making them available in most of their latest models. Hot on their heels is a proliferation of third-party hardware and software designed to add new features to your vehicle.

There are three main options for BMW owners to choose from: the native iDrive interface developed by BMW; Apple’s CarPlay system; and Android Auto from Google.

But which is the best option? We take a look at each in turn to see exactly what they have to offer.

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iDrive from BMW

The iDrive interface has been a mainstay in BMWs since it was launched in 2001. Although this initial version was pretty cumbersome to use and wasn’t exactly attractive, the system has since come on leaps and bounds.

Pros

The iDrive interface has been a mainstay in BMWs since it was launched in 2001. Although this initial version was pretty cumbersome to use and wasn’t exactly attractive, the system has since come on leaps and bounds.

Cons

Firstly, perhaps the most obvious use for an in-car computer is for help finding the way from A to B. Most of us, though, are now used to carrying Google Maps with us wherever we go, and ditching that for iDrive’s far more limited navigation offering seems pretty counter-intuitive.

Secondly, although iDrive can offer mobile office functions, in-car telephony and more, these connected features are generally reliant on your smartphone. And unfortunately, compatibility isn’t exactly a given. Your smartphone, the version of iOS or Android it’s running and the iDrive software installed in your car can all influence what features will and won’t work. Buying a new phone can be more stress than it’s worth, when there’s no guarantee that the in-car features you rely on will continue to function with your new handset.

Finally, not everybody is convinced by the quality of the user experience. BMW has worked hard to improve the iDrive since it was first introduced, but there is still a long way to go to match the expertise of the likes of Apple and Google. These companies are able to draw on their vast experience creating the user interfaces that we interact with every day on our cellphones. The ubiquitousness of iOS and Android also means that CarPlay and Android Auto have the third-party support (be that hardware compatibility or app availability) that we as smartphone users now take for granted.

These factors taken together explain in part why auto manufacturers have been so quick to offer CarPlay and/or Android Auto integration in many of their newer vehicles.

BMW Apple CarPlay

Apple’s CarPlay system has been rising in popularity since its launch in 2014. It’s now being offered as a factory option in an increasing number of cars, including most of the latest BMWs (although you’ll have to pay a subscription fee). CarPlay-compatible head units are also available as a retrofit option in older vehicles and those lacking the appropriate hardware, and aftermarket CarPlay units like BimmerTech’s offer another way to get CarPlay into your BMW. More information about Apple CarPlay can be found in our other blog post, and we’ve also taken a look at retrofitting CarPlay into older BMWs.

BMW Apple Carplay

What is Apple CarPlay

CarPlay is Apple’s entry into the infotainment space, and makes it easy to use iOS apps on your BMW’s iDrive screen. If you’re an iPhone user and want to replace BMW’s native maps with Waze, make and receive WhatsApp messages while driving or stream music from Spotify or Apple Music, CarPlay is an obvious solution. Siri integration means you can also summon Siri with the voice command button your BMW’s steering wheel. Ask for directions, skip to the next track or makes calls, without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

The obvious consequence is increased safety; compared to the BMW native voice command, Siri is generally more capable, and with the iOS app ecosystem backing it up, you’re unlikely to miss out on features you need. There’s also the matter of familiarity — you’ll be able to use the same Siri commands you do on your iPhone. Though CarPlay can also be navigated with the rotary iDrive controller or touchscreen in compatible vehicles, voice-only control is a perfect fit when you’re on the road.

CarPlay is only available for iPhone users; if you’ve got an Android phone, you’ll need Android Auto, which offers a lot of the same features. We’ll take a closer look at it in a moment.

BMW CarPlay subscription

CarPlay is Apple’s entry into the infotainment space, and makes it easy to use iOS apps on your BMW’s iDrive screen. If you’re an iPhone user and want to replace BMW’s native maps with Waze, make and receive WhatsApp messages while driving or stream music from Spotify or Apple Music, CarPlay is an obvious solution. Siri integration means you can also summon Siri with the voice command button your BMW’s steering wheel. Ask for directions, skip to the next track or makes calls, without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

The obvious consequence is increased safety; compared to the BMW native voice command, Siri is generally more capable, and with the iOS app ecosystem backing it up, you’re unlikely to miss out on features you need. There’s also the matter of familiarity — you’ll be able to use the same Siri commands you do on your iPhone. Though CarPlay can also be navigated with the rotary iDrive controller or touchscreen in compatible vehicles, voice-only control is a perfect fit when you’re on the road.

CarPlay is only available for iPhone users; if you’ve got an Android phone, you’ll need Android Auto, which offers a lot of the same features. We’ll take a closer look at it in a moment.

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