Video: Exclusive hands-on with BMW Apps, new ConnectedDrive
BMW has big plans for this week's New York Auto Show, including the debut of the 2012 6 Series Coupe, lease pricing for the all-electric ActiveE and the first application of its new TwinPower turbocharged four-cylinder in the U.S. But that's not all.
BMW gave us an early preview of the next generation ConnectedDrive system, complete with Apple Plugin integration (read: iPod out) for the iPhone and iPod Touch and it's latest foray into the integrated app game, which ports Twitter, Facebook, Pandora and web radio directly into iDrive for a seamless, connected experience.
Follow the jump for our full impressions and a video of the system in action.
If you've been following the progress of MiniConnected, you'll recognize several of these features, specifically Pandora integration and the latest version of iPod out. Some of these apps have been available on the Cooper, Clubman and Countryman since late last year, but this is the first application on BMW's range of products. The new ConnectedDrive system will be available on all models - from the 1 to the 7 Series - beginning next month and the execution is easily the most polished we've seen from an OEM.
Like past BMWs, there's an iPhone cradle fitted to the center console that connects with the iDrive system, allowing you to control the standard iPod music functions through an interface that was co-developed by Apple and BMW. Anyone familiar with an iPod will instantly recognize the music control screen, which comes complete with album art, playlist, artist and genre searches, all accessed through an easy-to-use interface controlled through the iDrive knob. Interestingly, all the rendering is done on the iPhone, with the screen simply acting as an external display.
The Pandora integration is just as trick, allowing you to scroll through and select a channel, give tracks the thumbs up or down, save a song to your favorites, skip a track or create a new channel by searching for an artist or genre. Again, all of this is powered directly through the iPhone, using the data connection to pull in the tracks. And if you're hankering to listen to your old college radio station that's 2,000 miles away, the web radio app allows you to stream the station no matter where you are on the planet.
BMW calls its Facebook and Twitter integration "Automotive Grade," which is a nice way of saying "minimalist." And as it should be. The primary function is less about reading status messages and updates, and more about sending a quick, pre-programmed post on the go. The system can pull in hundreds of data points from the vehicle and navigation system, allowing you to update your status with location information, weather and a host of other data. Want to let your friends know when you'll be at the restaurant? The app can pull in your location and destination from the sat-nav and post an update saying you'll be there in 15 minutes. And if the pre-packaged responses aren't up to snuff, once you unhook the phone from the cradle, you can create your own canned responses and updates directly in the app, which also keeps track of vehicle mileage, service data and a handful of other useful bits of information.
When asked about future apps and possible partners, BMW says it's in talks with several other companies, many of whom have approached the automaker to port their programs into the system. That could mean that apps like OpenTable (restaurant reservations) and Fandango (movie times and ticketing) are just around the corner, and with Mini recently bringing MOG music streaming to its customers, integration with BMWs should be coming soon. The BMW engineers we spoke with are open to any and all ideas, so let them know what you want in our comments and they'll get cracking.