BMW have updated its iDrive in-car computer with a few new features mainly to do with connectivity through its ConnectedDrive system.
Through Google’s Panoramio service, iDrive’s navigation module will download images of the destination to provide the driver with additional navigational aid. The navigation module can also provide drivers with current European weather and temperature information updated at two-hourly intervals, at map scales starting from 1cm to 20km. Of course, these features start with Europe first so they may not be of much significance to a Malaysian BMW driver for now.
There’s also a feature called iPod Out, which allows display and control capability for iOS 4 devices using the on-board monitor and vehicle controls, including custom playlists, and the Genius function. BMW says they’ve changed the way they interface with iOS devices to the new iPod Out system to ensure future devices can be used with the vehicle on a long term basis. iDrive’s audio player can now also display Cover Art on the on board monitor.
For BlackBerry users, iDrive will now be able to access your phone’s emails via Bluetooth. Emails can be viewed on the control display or be read out via a text to speech feature so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. The first BlackBerry to support this feature from launch is the Pearl 3G 9105. You can also access your calendar entries, SMS, tasks, and memos, not only from your BlackBerry but from a list of compatible smart phones. Any image file accompanying a stored contact can be displayed on the on-board monitor, for example when there is an incoming call.
For the F01/F02 7-Series, BMW has now added a full fledged telephone to the car – you do not need to pair your phone to the car via BlueTooth to access telephony services now. You can use the phone via a cordless handset integrated into the centre console of the rear compartment.
Next, BMW has finally caught up with the many other manufacturers offering on-board WiFi services. The WiFi access point uses an internet connection from either a mobile phone that supports SIM Access Profile integrated into the vehicle using a snap-in adapter, or a SIM card drawer which you can insert a data-enabled SIM card. The car switches between UMTS and GSM frequencies – no HSDPA here. Interestingly, BMW says the WiFi hotspot function is available as a retrofit function for all current BMW models as long as it is equipped with the latest generation of iDrive and has the mobile phone preparation with Bluetooth interface option.
Undoubtedly one of the gadgets that a BMW passenger will be using in the backseat is one of those new iPads, so BMW is cashing in by selling an iPad holder, which is an add-on to the optional Travel & Comfort System, which functions as the base carrier where holders can be hooked on. This Travel & Comfort system will debut with the new BMW X3 and will be available for all other models from Spring 2011. The iPad holder can be turned 90 degrees for a vertical or horizontal display, and tilt angle can be adjusted in the vertical mode.
Lastly, there is a something for vehicles that are not equipped with iDrive. There are plenty of such models in Malaysia, such as the 320d, the entire X1 range, and etc. BMW seems to be suggesting you use your iPhone as a replacement, such an “extremely high-quality BMW Station for the Apple iPhone” (press release language can sometimes be hilarious), which can be equipped to the 1-Series, 3-Series, Z4, X1, new X3 and outgoing X3. It allows the iPhone to be docked without any visible cable connections and also comes with a handsfree kit with a directional microphone, a radio mute function for incoming calls, and a charging function.
To complete the whole pseudo-iDrive experience, BMW will be releasing an iPhone app soon called BMW Link, which is sort of an in-car interface for your iPhone. Other than your usual telephony and music player functions, BMW Link also offers certain services from BMW ConnectedDrive such as breakdown assistance.