Era of free-to-use in-car software is coming to a close as paid-for downloads roll out
12 September 2019

A year has passed since BMW released what it called OS7 – the seventh iteration of its iDrive infotainment system – but the first customers are now being asked to hand over money in order for some services to continue. Owners are now seeing the message: “Your free trial of Apple CarPlay is up. Would you like to renew? Please pay £85 for another year.” 

We’re used to automakers bundling in free infotainment features such as CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which migrate functions from your phone to the car’s multimedia system, but manufacturers are now starting to ask customers to pay for the services. 

It’s the start of a revolution called ‘features over the air’, which offers the ability to continually upgrade cars remotely with both useful and frivolous software functions. 

CarPlay is not free. Apple charges car makers £45 to £90 per car to use it. Then it has to be integrated into the screen, which incurs further costs, all of which are factored into the list or lease price. 

BMW owners now have to choose whether or not to pay for it to continue being a feature of their car, alongside add-ons such as a digital ‘key’ for up to five phones. 

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Mercedes-Benz is also charging customers for its new MBUX operating system via the Mercedes Me Store, where CarPlay or Android Auto can be downloaded for a £267 one-off payment. 

Audi, meanwhile, has kicked off its over-the-air feature range with the electric E-tron SUV. Launch models are fully loaded, but on future, cheaper versions it will be possible to upgrade after the factory build, even swapping the LED lights to fancier matrix ones. 

The pioneer for all this is Tesla, which has long upgraded software and added features via wi-fi. The latest addition is the ability to watch Netflix programmes on the dashboard screen while charging. 

“CarPlay, Android Auto and infotainment upgrades are just the beginning,” said Krishna Jayaraman, program manager for connectivity and telematics at consultants Frost & Sullivan. 

In a recent analyst report Jaguar Land Rover highlighted that three electronic ‘modules’ in its newest cars were updatable over the air, with the feature mainly used to update infotainment software. In the medium term that figure is set to rise to 14 modules, with “all” modules eventually being upgradable over the air. In future customers could, for example, download circuit-specific suspension settings the night before a track day. “Today the role of the car maker is changing,” Jayaraman said. “It’s in the business of selling an experience rather than the car itself.” 

Jayaraman believes subscriptions will come into their own when paying for really expensive technology, such as autonomous driving functions. “CarPlay could cost a company £90, but a self-driving feature could cost thousands,” he said. “How do you break it down so the customer can afford it?” One way is via a one-off payment for, say, a long motorway trip. 

This new technology does, of course, present a security risk. Volkswagen, for example, reportedly delayed sales of the next Golf because of issues with the over-the-air capability of its next-generation software for the infotainment system. 

The overall concept, though, is here to stay. If you don’t like the idea of it or can’t or don’t want to pay, then simply don’t subscribe. But at least now you can change your mind.

Nick Gibbs

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Comments
34

12 September 2019

All these irritants become barriers to purchasing.

Stupid.

289

12 September 2019

....before I paid for this crap.

God people are gullible these days - talk about having your leg lifted!

12 September 2019
So a Vauxhall Corsa with mirror link is now a better option from an infotainment point of view, as mirror link should in theory always be free.

New Corsa is not a bad looking car either. Certainly better than the mutant new 1 series.

12 September 2019

Thank you for your post, I look for such article along time, today I find it finally. this post gives me lots of advise it is very useful for me.

 

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12 September 2019

Some companies already charge for AppleCar play to begin with, some even charge for Android.

Anyhow, this sort of thing has been tried before with 'pay for news' websites, most reverted back to free access. There's only so many muppets in the world willing to pay for this bling!

12 September 2019

So now they're reverting to out dated sales methods, even though Tesla and the likes do it for free???

Seems a bit out of step with the market...

12 September 2019
memyselfandi wrote:

So now they're reverting to out dated sales methods, even though Tesla and the likes do it for free???

Seems a bit out of step with the market...

Tesla dont "do it for free" - updates to their cars are included and paid for by the purchase price of the car, Android Auto and Apple Carplay are not available on Teslas.

12 September 2019
typos1 wrote:

memyselfandi wrote:

So now they're reverting to out dated sales methods, even though Tesla and the likes do it for free???

Seems a bit out of step with the market...

Tesla dont "do it for free" - updates to their cars are included and paid for by the purchase price of the car, ..

That's like saying FORD don't provide wheels on their cars, they're "paid for by the purchase price of the car".

12 September 2019
xxxx wrote:

typos1 wrote:

memyselfandi wrote:

So now they're reverting to out dated sales methods, even though Tesla and the likes do it for free???

Seems a bit out of step with the market...

Tesla dont "do it for free" - updates to their cars are included and paid for by the purchase price of the car, ..

That's like saying FORD don't provide wheels on their cars, they're "paid for by the purchase price of the car".

No, its not like saying that at all, its like saying Ford DO provide wheels for their cars and said wheels  are paid for by the purchase price of the car.

ALL manufacturers provide updates for free, its just that with most you have to have the car serviced at a main stealer who will then (provided they actually know what theyre doing and lots of stealers dont dont) apply the update (to the ICE or ECU for example) manually via a diagnostic machine.

13 September 2019
typos1 wrote:

xxxx wrote:

typos1 wrote:

memyselfandi wrote:

So now they're reverting to out dated sales methods, even though Tesla and the likes do it for free???

Seems a bit out of step with the market...

Tesla dont "do it for free" - updates to their cars are included and paid for by the purchase price of the car, ..

That's like saying FORD don't provide wheels on their cars, they're "paid for by the purchase price of the car".

No, its not like saying that at all, its like saying Ford DO provide wheels for their cars and said wheels  are paid for by the purchase price of the car.

blah blah blah

So to apply your logic "Telsa DO provide software for their cars and said software is paid for by the purchase price of the car." IS THE same as "Ford DO provide wheels for their cars and said wheels are paid for by the purchase price of the car". Even if you never update the update the software.

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