Yikes: Facebook, Twitter Come To The 2011 BMW 1-Series

March 1, 2011

Early last month, our colleagues at AllCarTech wrote about BMW's Future Lab and its ConnectedDrive telematics system (which reminds us a bit of GM's upgraded OnStar, with a bit of Pandora thrown in for fun). Now, the automaker has tweaked its Connected app for the iPhone to include social networking through Twitter and Facebook. This is not necessarily a good thing.

The Connected app, which launched in December 2010, offers a very limited set of features -- primarily internet radio. The app interfaces with the car via the iPhone's traditional cable or a snap-in adapter, and when properly hooked up, users can interact with their iPhone via BMW's in-dash display. Facebook and Twitter integration are new additions to the app and allow drivers to keep up with posts from friends and family on the go -- which sounds like a fairly terrible idea.

We're sure that the app will feature heavily in BMW events at this weeks Geneva Motor Show, and we're hopeful that the automaker will highlight safety features that prevent it from being what lawyers call "an attractive nuisance" (i.e. an enticing and dangerous distraction) to drivers. But there's no sign of that concern in BMW's press release:

This means drivers can leave their iPhone in the holder and keep up with personal Facebook or Twitter posts in comfort and safety via the large vehicle display. Using preformulated text modules, which can be individually defined and stored in the iPhone app, the app can also be used to call up vehicle information such as current speed, outside temperature or navigation destination, enabling the driver to reply to new posts and messages from the car at any time. [emphasis ours]

Ray LaHood is not going to be happy.

Apart from the potential dangers of Facebooking on the go -- not to mention the Connected app's small feature set -- there's another downside: the app only works on select BMW models, none of which are available for purchase yet. The first models to integrate the app will be the 1-Series, with others to follow.

(We won't even bother to mention the fact that the app is iPhone-only, despite the fact that Android has begun to eat Apple's proverbial lunch.)

The Connected app has only received nine reviews in the Apple App store -- almost none of them good. Mostly, folks have complained about the app not being backwards-compatible with older BMW models -- and frankly, we'd agree. For a company that claims to be as forward-thinking as BMW, you'd think they might've planned for this. Let's hope that upgrades down the line address at least some of these concerns.

* * * * *

BMW offers new interface for extended iPhone connectivity.The special option Apps.

23.02.2011Press Release Munich

For the first time following the launch of MINI Connected, the BMW Group is now also offering select iPhone applications for integrated use in a BMW. This capability sees the already extensive range of BMW ConnectedDrive features enhanced by a function hitherto unmatched by the competition. With this offer, BMW is once again underlining its leadership role in the field of in-car integration technology. The new option is designed to improve the integration of the Apple iPhone in the car and will be available from spring 2011 to coincide with the launch of the new BMW 1 Series Coupé and the new BMW 1 Series Convertible. The special option will cost €150.

BMW Connected app: listen to web radio, send and receive Facebook and Twitter posts.
With the BMW Connected app, functions such as web radio, Facebook and Twitter can be shown on the car's display and be operated by means of the iDrive Controller. In addition to the new special option Apps, the requirements for this function are Bluetooth connectivity and the Navigation system Professional (both special options), as well as an iPhone with the BMW Connected app, which can be downloaded free of charge in the Apple App Store. If the iPhone is connected to the car via the USB socket or snap-in adapter, the content of the BMW Connected app appears on the display, which is ideally positioned in the driver's line of vision. This means drivers can leave their iPhone in the holder and keep up with personal Facebook or Twitter posts in comfort and safety via the large vehicle display. Using preformulated text modules, which can be individually defined and stored in the iPhone app, the app can also be used to call up vehicle information such as current speed, outside temperature or navigation destination, enabling the driver to reply to new posts and messages from the car at any time.

As with Facebook and Twitter, the web radio feature can also be operated via the Navigation display using the iDrive Controller. It means that vehicle occupants have access to thousands of internet radio stations around the world, irrespective of the car's location. As with the iPhone, music station searches can be carried out via a wide range of search parameters such as genre, country or local stations. Stored favourite stations can also be called up.

Whereas Facebook and Twitter can only be accessed inside the vehicle, the web radio feature of the BMW Connected App is also available on the iPhone beyond the confines of the car.

In addition to allowing the use of the BMW Connected app, this interface also opens up the possibility of using future applications in the vehicle which have been adapted in collaboration with BMW. As such the Apps interface only marks the beginning of extended iPhone integration through BMW ConnectedDrive. Further functions and apps will follow at regular intervals and will be available for download from the App Store to customers who have opted for the special option Apps and the related interface.

PlugIn: simple operation of the iPhone's iPod function in the car.
As well as permitting the integration of apps, the new interface offers a further in-car entertainment function known as PlugIn. This allows the operation of functions via the familiar Apple iPod user interface that appears in the car's display. Since the PlugIn feature gives the car direct access to the iPod functions of the iPhone, BMW owners can also avail themselves of all the extended options in the car. These include, for example, Genius playlists that allow the driver to automatically generate mixes of similar tracks from the music catalogue. All stored playlists are shown with their original album cover art – just as they would be on an iPhone or iPod. Here, once again, BMW is affirming its leadership role in the field of infotainment.

As the software for the various BMW ConnectedDrive options is in the user's iPhone, regular updates can extend and adapt these functions, thereby guaranteeing the long-term use of current and future iPhone functions. It marks a new era in the integration of consumer electronics in the car. The requirement for this comprehensive integration is a snap-in adapter.

Video playback: vodcasts in the car as well.
Last but not least, the new Apps interface also allows video podcasts from the iPhone's iPod function to be played and watched on the in-car display – when the vehicle is stationary.

[Engadget, Cnet]

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