It’s Always Been Free: Should BMW Charge for Apple’s CarPlay?

Automotive lore says that from their early days of producing cars the Japanese philosophy is that adding free little extras for no charge is a pleasant surprise that will keep customers coming back. Is this the reason why BMW charges $80 a year extra for Apple Carplay, but the BMW-based Toyota Supra gives it to customers free for four years?

Maybe. But as a BMW spokesperson recently told Car and Driver, there are numerous reasons which we will review below.

Wireless Is Complicated

Who knew? Actually, we all do. We know that coding for wireless systems can be time-consuming, which increases development costs. Then, every minor update to the software increases the likelihood the existing app won’t be compatible. So there’s more coding necessary by app developers to coordinate and integrate changes and updates.

New Phone, Old Hardware

Another problem for car manufacturers is the frequent influx of new phones and phone systems. As cars are expected to operate many years after an old phone is replaced by a newer model, owners also expect that new phone will seamlessly integrate into their four-year-old Bimmer. In the recent past cars evolved year-to-year. To indulge in the latest options, colors, or tech you were expected to purchase a new vehicle.

Now software changes frequently, so the old norms don’t apply. Should the automakers absorb the costs? All of them do now, except for BMW.

It’s Always Been Free

Until BMW’s announcement no manufacturer charged for updating auto wireless systems. In the case of the Supra, its bones are the same as a BMW Z4, yet Toyota doesn’t charge for essentially the same thing. Should it be the cost of doing business in the 21st century? Do other companies estimate development costs and unbeknownst to customers bake them into the list price?

Pay to CarPlay

For now, BMW will charge $80 per year for Apple’s CarPlay, or you can opt for their 20-year one-time charge of $300. If you’re planning on keeping the Bimmer of your dreams for years, then this seems inexpensive. But then, at the price of a new BMW sedan is this a petty charge on BMW’s part? After all, a 2020 7 Series sedan is over $85,000. At that price doesn’t an extra $300 seem inconsiderable?

What Do You Think?

At we’d be interested in hearing from you to see what you think, especially you more recent BMW customers.