BMW Brings Smartphone Apps Along For the Ride
March 28, 2013

BMW Integrates Smartphone Apps For Safer, Interactive Ride

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

If smartphones are meant to be go-everywhere devices, it´s inevitable that they´ll spend a fair amount of time in the car. Yet for as long as we´ve been carrying around smartphones, car makers have only recently begun to accommodate these devices. Ford and General Motors, for instance, have been feverishly working to sign partnerships with app makers to bring GPS and music services to their vehicles´ dashboards and consoles.

Yesterday, BMW effectively entered the game with a strong showing when they announced four new partnerships with Audible, Glympse, Rhapsody and TuneIn.

Now, iPhone users will be able to plug in their devices and use any of these four apps directly from the car´s dashboard. BMW is showing off this new feature today during the New York International Auto Show.

"We regularly identify apps that our owners rely on as part of their everyday life, and adapt them for an in-vehicle experience they'll find safe, useful and engaging," said BMW Group Apps Platform product manager Phil Johnston in a statement.

According to Engadget, developers for each of these four apps will have to do some internal tweaking to ensure that everything plays nicely together, which should take another few weeks. Once this is done, all BMW apps-compatible cars (including Minis) will be able to play back audiobooks, Internet radio, Subscription radio and even share GPS locations.

Drivers can interact with these apps via the car´s iDrive controller, buttons on the steering wheel, or even the in-console touch screen.

Giving the driver controls on the steering wheel and placing their apps in the dash are two steps BMW has taken to make interacting with the devices while driving safer. While some argue that any interaction with a cell phone or even a car´s built-in infotainment center can cause a distraction, BMW believes that placing this information in a driver´s line of sight is the safest way to accommodate a smartphone in the automobile.

“For us, the ability to integrate a smartphone like an iPhone into a car to make operating it easier and safer is critically important,” said David Bloom, also with BMW´s App Group, speaking to the New York Times.

Asking a driver to stop using their smartphone in the car is like asking them not to listen to music while driving — it simply isn´t going to happen. Thus many automakers see these sorts of app partnerships as the safest alternative to drivers fumbling around with their smartphones in their hand as they drive.

The addition of Glympse to BMW and Mini cars is another step forward in terms of safety. This app works a little like Apple´s Find My Friends and Snapchat in that users can allow their friends to monitor their location, but only for a certain amount of time.

By placing Glympse at eye-level and in the dash, BMW hopes to break many drivers of the habit of reaching for their iPhone to text an ETA to their friends and family members.

"The ability to use the Glympse app from the existing vehicle controls enables drivers to share their whereabouts and ETA in a much safer way," explained Johnston.

The other three partnerships are all about making long drives more pleasant with streaming music services and Audible´s audiobooks. Audible boasts a library of 135,000 spoken-word titles, meaning drivers will always have something to audibly “read” during their commutes. Additionally, Audible books sync with Kindle, meaning a Mini-owner can read part of their novel during morning coffee and pick up where they left off in the car.

These new partnerships and others like it are ensuring that we can continue to take our smartphones everywhere and even use them safely.