When it comes to our phones, laptops and other devices, the tangle of cables is giving way — headphone jacks have been replaced with Bluetooth earphones; printers, smart home devices and other peripherals connect over WiFi networks; and the humble charging cable has been usurped by convenient wireless charging pads, at home and in the office.
BMW was one of the first automakers to carve out a place for wireless devices in its vehicles. While almost all modern cars support some wireless connectivity, like Bluetooth music streaming, BMW went one or two steps further than the rest of the pack.
With wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available in the latest BMWs — at a time when similar offerings in other vehicles still require a wired USB connection — there's no denying BMW's sold on wireless technology.
Connecting to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto wirelessly has obvious advantages: it's quick, convenient and means your BMW's interior isn't cluttered up with cables.
However, the CarPlay and Android Auto systems are both powered by your phone, so using them is going to drain your device's battery. And the longer your journey, the more battery you'll cost yourself. Those using a wired connection have less to worry about; the USB cable can connect to your car and charge your device simultaneously.
Using a USB charger is a simple solution, but that's only adding back the cables the wireless connection to CarPlay or Android Auto took away.
A wireless charger can help keep your BMW's interior tidy and free of straggling cables, while also bringing convenience. Laying your phone on a wireless charging tray and grabbing it as you leave your car is far more intuitive than grappling with the plugs and sockets of a wired charger.
For anybody using wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, or streaming music from their phone wirelessly over Bluetooth, a wireless charging pad makes a lot of sense.
Wireless phone chargers are usually located in one of three locations in your BMW:
In older vehicles, BMW's own wireless charging tray (availability depends on your vehicle) is inside the center console, and requires lifting the armrest and sliding your phone into a wireless charging frame.
It's a simple solution, and as a native BMW option, of course it's fully integrated with your vehicle. But it comes with its downsides.
The most obvious issue is convenience. As wireless chargers have become commonplace, most of us have grown used to having a wireless charging pad easily accessible on our desks and bedside tables. Charging our phones is as simple as placing it down, and we can grab it and go at any moment. If we wanted to fiddle about, we'd might as well just use a cable to charge.
With the wireless charging pad in the armrest, you're right back to fiddling about. Lifting the armrest and sliding your phone into a dedicated wireless charging frame doesn't feel that much easier than just sticking in a USB cable.
You're also paying a price when it comes to easily accessing your phone. Of course, keeping your phone and all its possible distractions safely stowed away when driving is always the responsible choice, but we all know things don't really work like that. When a family member quickly wants to take a look at your photos, or you're using mobile payments at the drive thru, getting into the armrest is going to feel like a chore.
What's more, "out of sight, out of mind" definitely applies; with your phone completely hidden away, it's all too easy to forget to grab it before leaving your car.
If you don't have a native BMW wireless charging tray in your center console, many third-party products are available. Most of them will be mounted somewhere on the dashboard, usually by clipping onto the air vents. This makes them suitable for use in a wide range of vehicles.
There are pros and cons. On the plus side, these chargers double up as phone holders, meaning you can mount your phone within view. That's great if you're looking to use Google Maps or Waze on your phone while you charge it.
Then again, you'll often find that your phone ends up blocking your view to your BMW's iDrive display. With plenty of ways to get your phone's apps onto your iDrive screen, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or phone screen mirroring for BMW, a dashboard-mounted wireless charging holder usually isn't the best bet.
Most also need to be plugged into your car's USB port for power. That means you've still got a cable hanging across your BMW's interior, which not only looks messy but might get in the way when you're reaching for the iDrive buttons and dials. So much for convenience.
Some third-party wireless charging pads, like BimmerTech's Wireless Charger for BMW 3 Series / 4 Series, are made for a specific model. The result is more careful integration with your vehicle's interior than would be possible with a clip-on phone holder.
A popular location for a fully integrated wireless charging tray for BMW is on the center console, near the cupholders. BMW has also started using this spot for the factory wireless charger in newer vehicles. Drivers have plenty of reasons to prefer a wireless charging pad on the center console:
The only downside is that you can't use your phone's screen while driving, for example to use Google Maps or Waze for navigation. However, as more and more people move towards using dedicated infotainment solutions like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the dashboard display, there's no need to rely on using your phone's smaller screen.
The combination of wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or screen mirroring with a center console wireless charging pad offers unrivalled convenience and driving safety, along with seamless integration with your BMW's interior.
BimmerTech's Wireless Charger for BMW F3x is available for 3/4 Series LCI (post-2016 model year) vehicles. Owners of older vehicles can also install it after retrofitting the newer LCI center console trim piece. Contact us for information.
© BimmerTech 2011-current