These days, no area of life seems immune to the concept of the subscription model. The music we listen to, the films we watch, the food we buy, and even our cars can all be sorted via a monthly or annual fee.
For the latter, we’re not just talking about leasing and PCP deals - not so long ago, BMW was charging a yearly fee of £85 to unlock Apple CarPlay in its vehicles. The company performed a U-turn on this, but other subscriptions to access features have remained in place.
As has been the case for some time, even if you don’t spec a particular item when configuring your car, the hardware for it might be installed. What BMW has been doing is offering users the ability to unlock these features - for instance, adaptive headlights - by subscribing in its ConnectedDrive Store. With the latest update to its Operating System 7, as announced this week, it’ll be possible to have a free or in some cases £1 trial period. Future.
The plan is to greatly expand the unlockable features when the production iNext arrives, but already, there’s a smorgasbord on offer. This includes - mostly bizarrely - full access to the functionality of the adaptive dampers, the recently announced Apple-supported BMW Digital Key, and ‘IconicSounds Sport’ (just in case you wanted to pay for fake noise). It’s worth pointing out this isn’t something only BMW is doing - it’s also possible to pay to add un-specced features to the new VW Golf retroactively.
The over-the-air update for Operating System 7 is, however, free, and takes about 20 minutes to install. It brings with it cloud-based navigation, a reworked BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, and wireless Android Auto.
As quoted by Tech Crunch, a BMW spokesperson said of the push towards subscription access to optional features:
“We offer maximum flexibility and peace of mind to our customers when it comes to choosing and using their optional equipment in their BMWs, whether this BMW is new or used.
“So flexible offers, immediate availability, simpler booking and easy usability for choice, at any time, when it comes to your optional equipment”