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BMW says annual $80 CarPlay fee needed for ongoing testing & development

BMW's controversial annual and lifetime subscription fees for Apple CarPlay are because of the demands of ongoing software testing and engineering, the automaker says.

The problem is that CarPlay needs to be tested and possibly updated every time Apple releases new software to avoid conflicts, BMW told Car and Driver. This is exacerbated by support for wireless connections, something still rare in the CarPlay world.

Automakers are still adapting to the idea of constant aftermarket support, Car and Driver noted. While it's of course necessary to offer parts and recalls, cars have traditionally been designed to operate without any other maker updates.

The arrival of CarPlay, Android Auto, and complex first-party dashboard interfaces has complicated the situation.

Toyota's 2020 Supra operates on the same technology as BMW, but the company is reportedly offering CarPlay free for four years while it decides if a subscription is warranted. It doesn't charge for the platform on any other vehicle.

BMW announced plans to charge $80 annually or $300 for 20 years in January 2018. That took effect in July, and was met with backlash. While CarPlay is sometimes reserved for more expensive trims, the vast majority of compatible vehicles are subscription-free.

Indeed the BMW strategy has caused other problems, since an outage interrupted CarPlay use earlier this year. The company's ConnectedDrive service went down, taking CarPlay subscription verification with it.