Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

BMW’s Apple CarPlay Annual Fee Is Next-Level Gouging

Tim Stevens of CNet has been digging more into BMW’s annual CarPlay fee:

And then I read that Matt Bubbers, an automotive journalist for the Globe & Mail, was given a curious statement by a representative from BMW Canada. He was told that Apple will be changing its fee structure such that manufacturers would need to pay on a per-car, per-annum basis to keep CarPlay running. That statement has since been retracted and a BMW Canada representative told me that Mr. Bubbers was given “inaccurate information.” However, in the confused hours in between initial statement and subsequent retraction, I was left wondering: just what does Apple charge for CarPlay, and indeed what does Google charge for Android Auto?

The answer, as I’d find out, is basically nothing — though it is a little more complicated than that.

In speaking with multiple sources at various manufacturers who offer cars with Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto, I was quickly able to confirm that such fees, at least right now, do not exist. CarPlay and Android Auto, which are free for we consumers to use, are also provided for free for manufacturers to embed into their cars.

Here’s the crazy thing: even if Apple were not currently waiving the MFi per-device licensing fee, my understanding is that automakers would still only have to pay for the cost of a single Lightning connector component — which includes Apple’s royalty — per car, if they supplied their own connector cables. If they mount a USB port in the car instead and require drivers to supply their own Lightning-to-USB cable, I don’t believe that Apple would charge a royalty anyway. There are additional development costs for automakers to integrate and test CarPlay with their own system, and Stevens says that Apple charges a fee to participate in the MFi/Made for Apple accessory program.

Even with those costs, though, I can’t see a reasonable justification for BMW to charge owners $80 per year to use CarPlay — other than, of course, because they can.

Update: There is an authentication co-processor component as well.