BMW Will Reportedly Charge Subscription for Owners to use Apple CarPlay

The luxury automaker will reportedly shift from a one-time fee to an annual subscription to use the hands-free service.

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CarPlay enables iPhone owners to use their iPhones in a very familiar setting without actually having to drive distracted. Siri integrates with the car's infotainment system to make the use of your iPhone virtually hands-free. From calls to texts and even maps, a plethora of supported applications can be pushed from the user's handset to the infotainment screen. At the Detroit Auto Show, Don Smith, BMW North America's technology product manager reportedly told The Verge that CarPlay is going to be an ongoing subscription.

Though many manufacturers, even those of semi trucks, currently offer CarPlay as either a standard feature or optional upgrade, BMW is reportedly changing the game with America's most-wanted new car feature. The automaker is shifting from a one-time payment of $300 to enable CarPlay, to a new subscription-based service which will allow users to choose whether or not CarPlay is right for them. Smith told The Verge that this change was to make it more affordable for those who switch from iOS to Android mid-ownership, however many users across the internet see this more of a cash grab than innovation.

"For model year 2019, Apple CarPlay Compatibility will be included with Navigation (standard or optional depending on the vehicle) as a one year trial," a BMW spokeswoman told The Drive, "After one year, customers can purchase it from the ConnectedDrive Store within the My BMW ConnectedDrive portal or simply from within his or her BMW for $80 per year. This can be done without a visit to a BMW dealership as it is OTA. Customers have the ability to opt out at any point in time."

But the move itself doesn't scream premium to many. This kind of model embroiders the "premium" feel of the brand, that is, many small features make the owners feel nickel-and-dimed in order to appear to be more expensive and in-tune with the luxury appeal of the vehicle; I would know, I'm both an Apple user and BMW driver. BMW will graciously allow owners to have a taste of feature, enabling CarPlay for the first year at no cost, however, each additional year will be charged an annual fee. Manufacturers like Kia will even begin offering CarPlay as a standard feature in some of its vehicles, questioning the motive for the change in pace.

In a world of ever-changing car buying models, it becomes easy to see how this type of move will benefit manufacturers. BMW, for example, might lease a vehicle for four years, recouping $240 in subscription fees (remember, the first year is free) instead of the one-time $300 purchase of CarPlay. The vehicle comes back from its lease and is sold to the new owner for a five year period. This new owner then pays $80 each year of their ownership, bringing the total income for the subscription service to $720 over nine years, a 240% increase over the static cost for the first owner.

BMW also noted that it would be adding Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to new BMW vehicles later this year, however it doesn't appear that the manufacturer will be charging to enable these services. It's interesting to see an entertainment feature like CarPlay being a subscription, although charging to enable creature comforts (such as the ability to unlock doors, turn off headlights, and potentially remotely start a vehicle) seem to be more up the luxury alley.