For a long time, BMW has only offered Apple CarPlay in its cars, but that's all set to change with the announcement that BMW will be offering Android Auto in its cars from mid-2020.
The good news is you don't need to wait for new models to launch: Android Auto is going to be available on cars running BMW Operating System 7.0, so that will include recent models launched in 2019.
The lack of Android Auto on BMW cars wasn't some sort of smartphone snobbery, BMW essentially wanted Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to work the same way. The BMW 5 Series was one of the first cars to enable wireless Apple CarPlay and now you'll be getting wireless Android Auto in BMWs too.
Wireless Android Auto isn't unique to BMW: it was a feature that Google enabled in 2018, but it hasn't seen much support, with most manufacturers using a cable connection instead. There's a caveat that comes with that however - not all phones will support wireless Android Auto. This is the list of supported devices for wireless Android Auto, according to Google:
- Pixel or Pixel XL
- Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL
- Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL
- Nexus 5X or 6P
- Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+
- Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+
- Samsung Galaxy S10 or S10+
- Samsung Note 8, Note 9 and Note 10
BMW has confirmed to us that if you don't have a compatible phone then you will be able to use a wired connection instead - and also that Mini has no plans currently to support Android Auto.
The German car giant is also going a step further, saying that there's integration into the driver display and the heads-up display too. Currently you might get things like song titles, but little else, so we're keen to see the system in action to see how different in implementation it is from other manufacturers.
Adding Android Auto will support a wide range of apps and features from your phone, making it easy to use your favourite mapping app or music streaming service, let you respond to messages and have all the convenience of Google Assistant to talk to.
BMW Operating System 7.0 was introduced in 2018 on the new BMW X5 and has been used in subsequent cars. It's designed to be much more dynamic than previous infotainment platforms, offering over the air updates and support for the Hey BMW voice assistant.
While BMW hasn't said anything about the cost of Android Auto, it's worth remembering that Apple CarPlay does come at a cost: most who lease cars will get access to it at no cost, but in the long term it costs about £87 a year for the subscription to the connected package you'll need to enable CarPlay - we suspect Android Auto will be bundled into the same subscription.
BMW will be showcasing Android Auto at CES 2020, where we'll be sure to take a closer look at it.