How to Retrofit CarPlay into a 2016 or Older BMW

Bart Donda
Feb 19, 2020

how to retrofit CarPlay into a 2016 or older BMW

If available in your BMW, Apple CarPlay lets you connect your iPhone to your BMW and use iOS apps on the built-in dashboard display. You can listen to music, make calls, get directions, send texts and more — all while staying focused on the road. With the help of Siri, you can do all these things without taking your hands off the wheel. It’s a very useful feature that enhances your driving experience, so make sure you find out more about Apple CarPlay if you aren't already familiar with it.

When did BMW introduce Apple CarPlay?

BMW CarPlay is quite a recent thing. It’s only available for 2017 and newer models, leaving many BMW owners without the option to enjoy it in their cars.

Here’s the complete list of BMW cars with Apple CarPlay as of January 2020, provided by Apple:

  • 2017–2019 BMW 2 Series e.g. F22, F23, F45
  • 2017–2020 BMW 3 Series e.g. F30, F31, F34, F80, G20
  • 2017–2019 BMW 4 Series e.g. F32, F33, F36, F82, F83
  • 2017–2019 BMW 5 Series e.g. G30, G31, F90
  • 2017–2019 BMW 6 Series e.g. F06, F12, F13, G32
  • 2017–2019 BMW 7 Series e.g. G11, G12
  • 2018–2019 BMW X1 e.g. F48
  • 2017–2019 BMW X2 e.g. F39
  • 2017–2019 BMW X3 e.g. G01
  • 2017–2019 BMW X4 e.g. F26, G02
  • 2017–2019 BMW X5 e.g. F15, G05
  • 2017–2019 BMW X6 e.g. F16
  • 2018–2019 BMW i3
  • 2019 BMW i8
  • 2019 BMW Z4 G29

Although only vehicles produced after 2017 are officially compatible with Apple CarPlay, the right hardware retrofit can also let you add CarPlay to vehicles without factory support. If you're interested in upgrading your older car with BMW CarPlay (aftermarket option included), read on for a few possible solutions. 

If you want to find more about retrofits for BMW 3-Series, check out our guide on F30 upgrades.

Adding Apple CarPlay to your BMW

If you've got your heart set on adding Apple CarPlay to your BMW, you have a few options. Which you choose to go for will depend on your vehicle and budget.

Option 1: Activating your factory BMW Wireless CarPlay

BMW Apple CarPlay compatibility is limited because it requires the NBT Evo head unit with ID5 or ID6 software. In other words, your BMW needs the latest on-board computer and operating system. Even if you have a vehicle from 2016, 2015 or 2014 with recent technology, your vehicle may only have the ID4 software, or the older head unit hardware, regular NBT.

If your BMW is equipped with a compatible head unit, BimmerTech can perform a software activation to enable Apple CarPlay. In some cases, you might need to add a WiFi antenna if your car does not already have one, to allow establishing a wireless connection between your iPhone and BMW head unit. You can check here if your BMW needs one and if so — order it with us. With the appropriate hardware fitted in your vehicle, BimmerTech, unlike BMW, can do the BMW CarPlay activation even if you live in a country which is not on the Apple CarPlay availability list.

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As for the Apple CarPlay subscription, in December 2019 BMW announced that, starting from 2019/2020 cars with the latest iDrive 7.0, BMW owners won’t have to pay any kind of fees. Of course, that only covers the newest cars, and compatible 2018 and older BMWs will be charged a $300 one-time fee (like an earlier lifetime subscription). Still, by finally offering free BMW CarPlay, 2020 models are taking a step forward rather than backwards.

If the original BMW Apple CarPlay activation is unavailable for your vehicle, there are still two ways to upgrade your BMW.

Option 2: Retrofitting Carplay with BimmerTech's CarPlay MMI Prime

A simple and budget-friendly way to get CarPlay in an older BMW is with BimmerTech’s special CarPlay MMI Prime Retrofit for BMW.

Simply put, our BMW CarPlay retrofit has a module that connects to the head unit and iDrive screen. In other words, it’s an extension that integrates with the iDrive system. No one will be able to realize you changed anything in your BMW until you actually turn on CarPlay.

Plus, it’s an easy plug-and-play upgrade that doesn’t require any coding and won’t void your warranty. BimmerTech doesn't charge any subscription fee for CarPlay MMI Prime, either — it's a one-time-payment retrofit.

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Turn it on with the switch of a button on your iDrive controller or radio panel. It provides the same great CarPlay features you’d expect from a 2017 or newer BMW, complete with the user-friendly full-screen interface available in the latest cars. And there's no need to do any BMW Carplay updates. The moment a new iOS version is released, it's enough to update your iPhone to use all the latest features and improvements on your vehicle’s screen. 

How to pair wireless CarPlay with your phone

BimmerTech’s solution allows your iPhone to connect to CarPlay wirelessly — just like OEM CarPlay. 

For the BMW CarPlay setup, you need to turn on Bluetooth on your phone and pair it with the CarPlay MMI following the prompts on your iPhone’s screen. And that’s it — all BMW CarPlay apps are ready to be used! To see the process for yourself, watch our YouTube tutorial below:

How to install CarPlay MMI Prime 

BMW CarPlay upgrade installation is completely plug & play with no coding or permanent modifications required. It might take up to 2 hours of your time. You will need to connect the MMI module to the head unit of your vehicle disassembling the trim and faceplate on your dash. All the necessary parts & wires will be included with the kit. You will also receive an installation manual tailor-made for your specific BMW model. For any additional technical questions, BimmerTech’s BMW CarPlay support is always happy to help. 

For a better understanding of the installation process, you can also watch our instructional video:

Additional features of CarPlay MMI Prime 

CarPlay MMI Prime Retrofit will also let you mirror your smartphone's screen to your iDrive display, perfect for using apps that don't have CarPlay versions. Anticipating your “Can Apple CarPlay play Netflix?” question, unfortunately, there is no way to watch HBO, Hulu or Netflix on CarPlay or through screen mirroring (the apps block the mirroring function). But it is possible to cast YouTube using the iOS AirPlay feature.  

An additional USB port supplied with the kit also lets you play videos from a USB thumb drive, or connect an Android phone to use Android Auto on your BMW's dashboard display. BMW Android also works wirelessly with a certain number of smartphones. If you don't know about Google's competitor to Apple CarPlay, check out our introduction to Android Auto.

BimmerTech’s MMI Prime uses a high-quality audio chip for great sound quality. It also has a built-in 8-band equalizer for additional customization. It's a great feature for adjusting the sound in your BMW, especially if you don't have a multi-band equalizer in your iDrive system.

Bimmertech's MMI Prime Equalizer

In addition to the above mentioned features, CarPlay MMI Prime has a number of compatible add-ons that can be included in your order for a much lower price:

  • Front & rear view cameras 

The MMI in the CarPlay kit lowers the cost of BimmerTech camera retrofits, because they are connected to the same module. Adding them to your order, you get high-quality front & backup cameras that will make parking much safer. 

  • Panoramic screen 

This is an 8.8" display with 1280x480 resolution, available only for 3-Series F3x BMWs with ENTRYNAV head units. With a panoramic widescreen you will be able to enjoy all the advantages of the CarPlay’s fullscreen mode and make the best out of all the navigation, music or communication apps. In case you want to see how the installation looks like, check out our BMW CarPlay video.

BimmerTech’s CarPlay cars compatibility is based on the type of the in-car system - you can install it on most F-series cars with the following head units: ENTRY, ENTRYNAV, NBT, NBT EVO ID4, CIC (F3x only) and CHAMP2 (F3x only).

To accurately check your BMW’s compatibility with CarPlay MMI Prime or another BMW Apple CarPlay retrofit, use our CarPlay compatibility checker.

Option 3: Retrofitting CarPlay with a Head Unit Upgrade

To get the full original CarPlay experience in an older vehicle you will have to upgrade your BMW iDrive head unit to NBT EVO with the ID5/ID6 software. While this is a more advanced upgrade, it comes with a lot of added benefits, such as an HD screen upgrade, iDrive Touch controller, full coding from BimmerTech, CarPlay & BMW Apps pre-installed, and more.

A full head unit and software upgrade includes:

  • Full FSC retrofit activation including Navigation, Voice Control, BMW Apps and CarPlay
  • NBT Evo head unit with ID5/ID6 software
  • High Definition 8.8"/10.25" screen (depending on your BMW model)
  • iDrive Touch controller
  • All other parts required to perform the retrofit based on your car specification
  • Full retrofit coding
  • The latest GPS maps for your region
  • DVD/Video-in-motion activation

In order to check out the installation process, have a look at our video tutorial on fitting NBT EVO ID5/ID6 into BMW 3-Series F30.

If you don’t need to add all of the bells and whistles and just want CarPlay, you most likely will not need to upgrade the entire head unit set; your vehicle may already have some of the required parts such as the HD screen, allowing you to save as much as $1000. This depends on your BMW model and year — please contact us giving your VIN number for more information.

Many BMWs from 2016 or 2015 come equipped with NBT EVO ID4. Luckily, in this case, your car will require only one or two parts — the aftermarket head unit and possibly the ATM module.

Older cars from 2015, 2014 and 2013 with regular NBT (not NBT EVO) will require a different head unit upgrade but are already equipped with the required 8.8” HD screen and touch controller.

Cars with even older head units (CIC, ENTRY, ENTRYNAV), require a more complicated upgrade — the entire NBT EVO ID5/ID6 set will need to be retrofitted.

Once your BMW has been fitted with the right parts, the only step left is to activate CarPlay. In case of upgrading the whole NBT EVO head unit set, it will come with CarPlay already installed and ready to use. 

Want to check out which parts your BMW might need to upgrade to a newer iDrive? Type in your VIN on the NBT EVO ID5/ID6 product page and get the suitable retrofit link. 

For detailed information and assistance on retrofitting Apple CarPlay in your specific vehicle, please contact us. We’ll help you choose the right upgrade kit to make your CarPlay upgrade simple and without any extra parts that you don’t need to install.

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