BMW Apple CarPlay: 3 steps for New Bimmers to Improve It?

bmw carplay

One thing that makes Apple CarPlay stand out compared to the native BMW iDrive system is how easy it is to keep up-to-date. Whereas updating your iDrive software may require a visit to the dealer, a BMW Apple CarPlay update is quick and easy.

But how is it done? Let’s take a look.


The first thing to keep in mind is that CarPlay is tightly tied with your iPhone and its iOS version. Updates to the CarPlay system — from cosmetic changes to new features — come bundled with iOS updates, as opposed to being part of a separate Apple CarPlay software download. So if you’re running (for example) iOS 15, CarPlay is going to be pegged at the same level.

In general, that means the best way to make sure you’re getting everything CarPlay has to offer is keep your iPhone updated with all the latest iOS releases.

Does that mean there’s nothing to update on the BMW side? Well, it’s not quite as simple as that…

While the bulk of the BMW Apple CarPlay functionality is coming from your iPhone and its software, the fact that your iDrive is hosting CarPlay does give it some say over how it works.

As an example, while older BMW iDrive software chose to display Apple CarPlay in split-screen mode (reserving part of the screen for native iDrive use), BMW later dropped that design. Subsequent iDrive software versions included a BMW Apple CarPlay upgrade to unlock full-screen CarPlay.

Enable Apple CarPlay’s full-screen mode in your BMW.

Does Apple CarPlay expire?

Besides simply updating the interface, BMW has also updated its policies around CarPlay.

When CarPlay was first made available in new BMWs, it actually came with an expiration date. You might be able to use it for the duration of your lease, but after that, you’d have to stump up an annual subscription fee to keep it working.

BMW’s logic was ridiculous that you’d avoid having to pay a higher upfront activation fee just to trade your car in after a few years. But with so many competing manufacturers offering CarPlay either as standard or as a one-off option, the BMW CarPlay subscription model wasn’t going to last long.

Since BMW decided to enable Apple CarPlay permanently, it’s clear: Apple CarPlay does not expire.

How much is an Apple CarPlay subscription?

That change also frees you from having to pay any Apple CarPlay subscription fees.

Of course any premium apps you want to stream to your car — whether that’s ad-free audio streaming or a paid navigation provider — are still going to charge their own subscriptions, but keeping CarPlay itself running doesn’t come with any additional charge.


That’s all well and good, but what if you don’t have CarPlay in your BMW in the first place? Or you’re still stuck with the old split-screen view?

The good news is that it’s never been easier to get a quality BMW Apple CarPlay upgrade, or update your existing Apple CarPlay software for some extra features.

OEM BMW Apple CarPlay update

For anybody driving a BMW produced since around 2016, your first port of call is probably going to be BMW’s native CarPlay system. Even if your vehicle doesn’t already have CarPlay up-and-running, there’s a chance you have all the required hardware pre-installed from the factory.

In that case, SmartBimmer team can enable Apple CarPlay in your BMW remotely, either by loading an activation file through your BMW’s USB port, or during a remote coding session with a skilled technician.

If you’ve already got CarPlay, but it’s pushed to one side of the screen in split-screen mode, an iDrive software update is all it takes to start using full-screen BMW Apple CarPlay. Like our CarPlay activation service, our technician can perform the whole update remotely at a time that suits you.

BMW CarPlay retrofit update

For vehicles that don’t support the factory-original CarPlay service, a hardware retrofit can deliver the same experience, even in older cars.

SmartBimmer CarPlay Smartbox retrofit for BMWs is the most popular retrofit on the market, thanks to the smooth CarPlay experience it provides in both the latest vehicles and vehicles produced way back in 2008.

What’s more, because CarPlay is updated through your iPhone, you’re still guaranteed to get the latest CarPlay features as soon as they’re available.

Besides the core CarPlay updates that come with each iOS release, SmartBimmer also provides routine firmware updates for all our CarPlay retrofit units, adding even greater integration with your BMW’s factory iDrive system. Just use the MMI’s included USB port to load the software update file provided by our technical support team. This software also adds support for additional features not available through CarPlay, like watching YouTube and Netflix in your BMW.


Whichever way you’ve added CarPlay to your BMW, though, the simplest connection option is the same: wireless. The native BMW Apple CarPlay system is wireless only, whereas SmartBimmer’s CarPlay box includes both wired and wireless connectivity options as standard.

The first step to connecting CarPlay is to prepare your iPhone. To enable CarPlay on iPhone, it’s as simple as going to Settings > General > CarPlay. As long as your iPhone’s WiFi and Bluetooth is switched on, your phone should identify your vehicle automatically. Then, it’s as simple as following the on-screen instructions to pair your iPhone and car.

With pairing done, you’ll be able to reconnect to your vehicle every time you head out for a drive and pull all your favorite CarPlay apps up on your BMW’s dashboard display.

Learn more about how to set up Apple CarPlay in your BMW.


One of the most convenient things about CarPlay is its deep integration with the Siri virtual assistant. That support is there out of the box, so there’s nothing that needs to be done to enable Siri for CarPlay.

In your BMW with CarPlay running, you can press and hold the voice command button on your steering wheel, and dictate instructions to Siri. CarPlay will pick up those commands and do exactly what you’d expect: send messages, find directions and more.

Siri works the same whether you’re using CarPlay through your BMW iDrive system or SmartBimmer CarPlay box.

In BMWs specifically, even with CarPlay not available, enable Siri through BMW iDrive coding and you’ll still be able to use Siri behind the wheel, albeit without the additional power that comes from a full CarPlay system.


As powerful as CarPlay is, every now and then it might stop working — particularly after an iOS update. If CarPlay won’t connect, the best course of action is to reset your iPhone and iDrive and try to pair up again.

On iPhones without a physical home button:

  1. Press the volume up button.
  2. Press the volume down button.
  3. Press and hold the wake/power button until your iPhone shuts down.

On iPhones with a physical home button:

  1. Press and hold the home button.
  2. Press and hold the wake/power button until your iPhone shuts down.

On your iDrive system, press and hold the volume knob until your iDrive system restarts. You’re then free to pair up your iPhone and iDrive system again.


We’ve covered how to make sure your BMW’s CarPlay system is always up-to-date, how to connect Apple CarPlay and how to troubleshoot issues that require you to reset Apple CarPlay. Most importantly for anybody not already enjoying CarPlay, we’ve also taken a look at how to add CarPlay to your BMW.

Whichever CarPlay activation path is right for your BMW, SmartBimmer offers a professional, high-quality service. Whether activating the factory-original BMW CarPlay option, or adding a CarPlay retrofit for BMWs and MINIs, we’re here to help you get as much as you can out of your BMW and its iDrive system.

BMW Apple CarPlay: Is There Anything New to Improve It?

10 10 minutes

  1. Download the SmartBimmer features installer

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    Download the SmartBimmer features installer

  2. Apply the SmartBimmer features installer code

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  3. Activate SmartBimmer features in 3 steps

    SmartBimmer features installer

    Activate the BMW Apple CarPlay, mirroring, and VIM unlock features with the SmartBimmer installer in 3 steps

Estimated Cost: 59 USD


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Materials: Smartbimmer features installer and bmw enet cable

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