How to Retrofit Android Auto into Your BMW in 2020

Anastasiia Husieva
Jan 13, 2020

android auto in bmw

Android Auto in BMW

Android Auto was launched in 2015 and the first vehicle manufacturer to offer it as a factory package was Hyundai. Right now it’s available in more than 500 models of different car makes either as a standard feature or an optional extra.

Android Auto is a mobile app that allows using your favorite smartphone applications on the car’s display. Once you connect an Android device to the vehicle, the car’s screen serves as a display for the Android Auto app, adapted to the vehicle’s user interface. This way you don’t need to engage with your smartphone to start the navigation, turn on the music or make a call.

Does BMW Have Android Auto as a Native iDrive Option?

Right now, Android Auto is supported by 47 car makes. The saddest thing about it is that BMW is not among them, nor does it plan to be, according to TechCrunch.

If you’re after genuine BMW solutions only, among scarce ways of integrating an Android device with a BMW you will find the BMW Connected app (which strongly depends on your phone and car model meaning connectivity issues and bugs are inevitable), Bluetooth and few others.

If you really want to get Android Auto in BMW without installing any aftermarket hardware upgrades, you can run the app on your smartphone and mirror it onto the iDrive screen.

How Do I Get Android Auto in My BMW? (Aftermarket)

When it comes to the native iDrive & Android Auto integration, BMW vehicles can be retrofitted with a BimmerTech original upgrade — Android Auto MMI Prime. What does it mean?

  • There is NO NEED to swap your BMW system for some Android Auto head unit. You get to leave your native iDrive and use the BMW controls to navigate the app.
  • It is required to install only a multimedia module (MMI) that is connected to your BMW head unit. It makes sure that Android Auto for BMW integrates with your car's native system.

It’s not an Android Auto hack — it’s software & hardware developed to work specifically with BMW vehicles.


How to Install Android Auto in BMW?

Android Auto MMI Prime is a hardware upgrade that includes only an MMI and wiring harness. The kit is completely plug & play and its installation takes 1–2h (the exact time depends on each model). You don’t need to have any professional expertise or prior experience to fit the Android Auto BMW retrofit — you will get detailed installation instructions for your specific BMW and will be able to get in touch with BimmerTech support to guide you through any stage of the process.

Android Auto compatible cars include F-Series BMWs with both newer and older iDrive generations (e.g. ENTRY, NBT, NBT EVO ID4, etc.). In order to check compatibility, identify your car at the top of the page.

Android Auto Compatible Phones

Before purchasing the Android Auto MMI Prime it’s necessary to check whether your smartphone is compatible with the application.

According to the official website, you can use the Android Auto app on any Android device that runs the OS version starting from 5.0 (Lollipop) and up. Though, it recommends the OS version starting from 6.0 (Marshmallow) and up, for better performance.

In order to see your Android version, go to the Settings and then to the About Device section.

Unfortunately, BMW Android Auto is limited regionally. Currently it’s available in 36 countries — you can find the full list here. But if you check out the Google Play store and it’s not there, probably your location isn’t on the list. In this case you can do a quick workaround — download the Android Auto .apk file from an alternative source on the web.

How to Use Android Auto in BMW?

Android Auto MMI Prime operates the same way as the original software is intended to, but it’s integrated with the BMW iDrive system, which doesn't have any native support for Android Auto, so it works differently than in other cars with Android Auto.

In order to launch the app, you need to connect the Android device to the car by plugging in a USB cable into the separate USB socket provided in the Android Auto MMI Prime kit. You can fit it in any suitable place so that it's comfortable for you to plug in the cable and keep the smartphone connected.

There is no need to keep the Android Auto app launched on your smartphone. In fact, your Android device can be operated independently, apart from calls and music which will go through the BMW system.

There are 3 ways to navigate the menu on the iDrive native screen:

  1. iDrive controller (tilting the iDrive wheel to the left for the left hamburger menu, turning the iDrive wheel to go to different sections of the menu, pressing the Back button to get to the bottom menu bar + pressing the iDrive wheel to choose)
  2. Google Assistant (can be turned on by pressing the voice button on the wheel, tilting the iDrive wheel to the right or just saying “Ok, Google”)
  3. Steering wheel buttons (scroll wheel for jumping to different menu sections, voice button for Google Assistant)

You can use Google Assistant to do a lot of things without you taking your eyes off the road. Using simple commands like “Start Spotify” or “Take me home,” you can easily operate Android Auto while safely driving your car. You can give even more specific tasks, like asking Google Assistant to turn on a specific song or find restaurants around your area. Just make sure you have steady Internet connection for the Google Assistant to work properly.

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime google assistant

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen google assistant

In order to get to the main iDrive menu, it’s necessary to hold the Back button. To return to Android Auto, you can press the 8 or hold the Menu button.

Why Android Auto MMI Prime Is Better than Other Retrofits

android auto mmi prime menu

Apart from integration with the native BMW system and providing Android Auto functionality, the retrofit also has:

  • Full-screen Android Auto mode on all BMW display sizes

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen main

  • USB socket that can be used to play videos from a USB stick

A USB cable with a user-facing female socket (included into the kit) is used to connect the smartphone to the iDrive and use Android Auto while also charging the device. But it can also be used to play videos from a USB stick in a full-screen mode.

  • The possibility to add front & rear view cameras for a lower price

Android Auto MMI Prime is based on an original BimmerTech multimedia module (MMI) that ensures the connection between the external software and the native BMW system. It also has inputs for either front, or rear, or both cameras, which means that you don’t need to buy cameras with a separate MMI. Because you already have it in your Android Auto retrofit.

BimmerTech rear view camera

This is a perfect solution when some of your family members or friends have iPhones while you’re an Android user. If you want to know more about CarPlay, read our blog post.

2020 Android Auto Apps List

The main advantage of Android Auto over, say, CarPlay, is that it has much more apps available. In fact, you can use:

  • Google Maps & Waze for navigation

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime google maps

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime waze

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen google maps

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen waze

  • Spotify, Google Play Music, Tidal, etc., for music

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime spotify

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime spotify

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen spotify

  • Stitcher, Podcast Addict, etc., for podcasts
  • What’sApp, Kik, WeChat, Skype, Messenger, etc., for communication
  • TuneIn, Scout FM, etc., for radio
  • NYTimes, ABC News, NPR One, etc., for news
  • Many more

The full list you can find here.

2020 Android Auto Update

During I/O 2019, Google announced an update to Android Auto, and in July it successfully rolled it out to the masses. So, what's changed, and is it for better or for worse?

The first thing anyone will notice is a dark theme which instils some elegance to the overall look. With the new user interface, it completely changes the experience of using Android Auto.


BMW Android Auto MMI Prime old look


BMW Android Auto MMI Prime main

The app launcher on the start screen shows the most recently used apps for easy and quick access, and the rest is below, right away on the first screen. Unlike the previous arrangement, this is much more comfortable because you don't need to do a lot of unnecessary clicks/moves. What's more, when you launch Android Auto after using it, the auto launcher brings up the last used app.

The updated Android Auto also has new apps - Calendar, News, Weather and Reminders.

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime new apps

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen new apps

As you can see from the photo, they have a Google Assistant icon in the bottom right corner. So, when you click on them, Google Assistant will tell you about the latest news, weather situation or calendar events/reminders for a specific day.

Among other new things, there is also a separate notification button where you can go and ask Google Assistant to read everything you have missed.

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime notifications

Why Does BMW not Have Android Auto as Original Software?

Thousands of BMW owners ask this question but nobody can get a clear answer. Some say that for BMW, Android Auto is not secure enough in terms of user privacy. Others argue that Android Auto is hard to implement and doesn’t have such integration flexibility like, say, CarPlay. But given the fact that so many car makes have incorporated the software, all of this seems unlikely.

The problem is that BMW tends to give more attention to iOS devices over the Android ones. That’s why questions like “Can I reprogram my BMW to use Android Auto?” or “How to hack Android Auto?” appear more and more often.

Will BMW ever have Android Auto? We don’t know. What we do know is that you don’t have to look for BMW iDrive hacks or wait for ages till the software makes its way to your favorite car. BimmerTech Android Auto MMI Prime is here to stay, and you can start enjoying it now.

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