BMW finally makes Apple CarPlay free

Zac Palmer

Update: BMW tells us that this change is taking place "immediately." All 2019 and 2020 models equipped with Apple CarPlay will not have to pay an annual subscription, BMW says. There's still no official word on refunds for folks who already paid.

Apple CarPlay in BMW vehicles is finally going to be free. Hallelujah! Autocar reported that BMW is eliminating the subscription charge for folks in the U.K. earlier today, and we just received confirmation from BMW that the change applies to U.S. BMW owners as well.

A BMW spokesperson told us that they “can confirm that this change does also apply to the U.S. market.” When we asked why the sudden change of heart, the same spokesperson sent us this statement: “BMW is always looking to satisfy our customers’ needs and this policy change is intended to provide BMW owners with a better ownership experience.”

To that we say, took ya long enough. BMW was the only manufacturer to make folks pay to use Apple CarPlay on a recurring basis. A 12-month subscription was billed at $80 for BMW owners. A 240-month subscription was $300. Now, those charges are going away. The decision to make folks pay for a subscription service that comes free of charge in every other CarPlay-equipped car felt like an affront to luxury from the start. This was only amplified by the usability issues that wireless BMW Apple CarPlay products have given us (and plenty of others) in the past. Making Apple CarPlay wireless was a great idea, but the implementation proved to be problematic.

There are still a few questions to be answered when it comes to free Apple CarPlay in BMWs. The timing for when folks will be able to stop paying is unclear. And then there are the poor folks who already shelled out hundreds of dollars to use the software for months on end. We’re guessing some refunds are in order, and we have questions out to BMW to clarify how the company will go about this switchover. Once we have answers, we’ll update this story with more information.

For now, it’s all good news for BMW owners with iPhones. Android users are still out of luck, as Android Auto functionality wasn’t part of today’s announcement. Side note: we're going to guess that this means 2020 Toyota Supra owners won't have to pay for Apple CarPlay either.