Hands-on with BMW's iPhone-exclusive App Suite and iDrive System
BMW announced partnerships with four new partners during the 2014 New York International Auto Show. Glympse, Audible, TuneIn and Rhapsody have been added to BMW's iPhone-exclusive App Suite. BMW-approved apps can seamlessly integrate into the car's iDrive system while disabling the iPhone's touch screen. That means that drivers can get the most of their iPhone and their car's infotainment systems without the hazard of distracted driving.
During our hands-on, the BMW rep connected his iPhone to the adapter in the central armrest and opened Glympse, the location sharing app. The system took 3 to 4 seconds to connect. Logos for Glympse and BMW appeared on the iPhone and its screen was disabled. A small Glympse logo appeared among the selections on the car's central display in BMW's iDrive system. The rep quickly sent a glympse to another user, setting destination time and a quick launch message, using the rotary dial to navigate the app similar to native iDrive apps. Once the glympse was sent, the rep used the dial to adjust the destination arrival time.
We also saw walkthroughs of Rhapsody and Audible. Although the apps have different functionalty, we were impressed with how seamlessly they were integrated into iDrive. For example, when we used Audible there were options to adjust narration speed and skip back 30 seconds. For Rhaspody, we could stream music or switch to downloaded tracks on the phone.
Once the apps were loaded, the rep relied on the rotary dial to handle most of the navigation. However during the Rhapsody walkthrough, the rep used buttons on the steering wheel and radio console to skip tracks. The app was also linked to a shortcut button for quick, easy access. Currently, users can only access BMW apps one at a time. Every time we wanted to use a new app, the rep had to hit the Home button on the iPhone and select the next app. However Apple and BMW are currently looking for a solution to what could be perceived as a minor annoyance.
Overall, the BMW Apps Suite offers a safe method to interact with your smartphone apps without having to divert your attention from the road. BMW has stated that it is looking into an Android solution, but hasn't confirmed when or if an app would be coming to the Google Play store.