BMW updates online services, supports Android

BMW announced a major update to the online portion of its iDrive cabin electronics, adding a standard data connection and making its ConnectedDrive app available for Android.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Almost every new BMW model will come with an integrated SIM card, enabling a dedicated data connection into the car. BMW also announced this week that it would release an Android version of its Connected app, currently only available on iOS, this summer.

This week's announcement comes as part of a larger reorganization of the connected components of BMW's iDrive cabin electronics.

As we saw in BMW 750Li, recently reviewed by CNET, the automaker currently includes music coming in through satellite radio, traffic data delivered as an FM radio signal, the BMW Online service, and the BMW Connected app for smartphone integration.

The reorganization does not actually consolidate these disparate features, but seems as if BMW is starting to get a handle on an area it let run wild. BMW says that it will include a dedicated data connection in most of its new models to power the BMW Online services. These services are built into the car, and include Yelp, stocks, news, parking garage information, destination photos, and many others. Owners can selectively install the online services they find the most useful.

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The data connection and some online services will be offered on a subscription basis, with owners being able to pay for the services directly from the car's interface, or from a Web site. Although BMW's press release showed screens where owners would pay a subscription fee for traffic data, that service's fees will likely be tailored to individual markets.

BMW will also build an online music service into the car, initially available in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Spain, and Italy. This service will be run by different providers depending on the market and and owner preference, but is shown launching with Napster and Rara, latter being a U.K.-based company with wide coverage. BMW says the service will offer a library of 250 million songs, and will let owners cache playlists in the car for playback in areas lacking a data connection.

This online music service will require a separate subscription.

The ConnectedDrive app supports a number of apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Mog, Aupeo, Rhapsody, TuneIn, and its own Web radio service. Free of any subscription fees from BMW, the ConnectedDrive app runs on a smartphone, and lets owners use its supported apps through the iDrive interface.