How to Retrofit Android Auto into Your BMW in 2020

Anastasiia Husieva
Jul 10, 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. Earlier BMW didn’t even plan to be among them, but in December 2019 the automaker revealed its intention to install Android Auto on BMW models of the newest generation. The first cars with Android Auto will see the light of day in July 2020. Only the 2019/2020 BMW models with the latest iDrive 7.0 will be equipped with this integration. To learn more about the original software, read our blog post on what Android Auto is and how it works.

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.


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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 differs depending on the head unit version. The installation for NBT-type head units 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.

The installation process of Android Auto for CIC head units, on the other hand, looks a bit different. While mounting Android Auto MMI Prime for NBT-type head units is manageable even for inexperienced DIY’ers, the installation of Android Auto for CIC is a bit more tedious. Therefore, if you’d need a helping hand, here’s a list of our installers who will manage this process for you.

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

Is Android Auto Wireless?

BimmerTech's Android Auto MMI Prime supports wireless connection just like the original software, but the list of officially compatible phones covers only Google's Pixel and Nexus lines, and Samsung Galaxy phones with Android 8.0 or higher. Check out the full list below:

Phone Make and Model Android Version
Pixel or Pixel XL Android 8.0 or higher
Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL Android 8.0 or higher
Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL Android 8.0 or higher
Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL Android 10.0 or higher
Nexus 5X or 6P Android 8.0 or higher
Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ Android 9.0 or higher
Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+ Android 9.0 or higher
    Samsung Galaxy S10 or S10+ Android 9.0 or higher
Samsung Note 8, Note 9 and Note 10 Android 9.0 or higher

Keep in mind that other phones may work too, even though they are not officially compatible.

It is also recommended to install or update the Android Auto app to version 4.7, as well as using a high-quality original USB cable for the initial setup. 

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.

Why Android Auto is not available in all countries

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 or use a VPN to change your region and download it from the Google Play Store. 

How do I connect to Android Auto?

Wireless connection

To enjoy Android Auto wirelessly your phone has to support wireless Android Auto. Once you pair it wirelessly, your phone will automatically connect with the MMI every time you get into your BMW, without you even having to remove your phone from your pocket or bag.

USB connection

In order to launch Android Auto via cable, you need to connect your Android device to the car by plugging 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 keep the smartphone connected.

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

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.

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

  1. iDrive controller (pressing and holding the iDrive Menu button to toggle between iDrive and MMI menu or Android Auto, tilting the iDrive wheel to the left or right to jump between different portions of the Android Auto menu, turning the iDrive wheel to go to different sections of the menu, double pressing the Back button to exit Android Auto and get to the MMI menu, pressing the iDrive wheel to summon Google Assistant)
  2. Google Assistant (Android Auto turns it on on with a press of one button, tilt the iDrive wheel to the right or just say “OK, Google”)
  3. Steering wheel buttons (use the scroll wheel for jumping to different menu sections, and voice button for Google Assistant). NOTE: Android Auto for CIC lacks the steering wheel buttons control feature.

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.

How to Use Android Auto in BMW?

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen google assistant

To toggle back and forth between your BMW's iDrive menu and the MMI/Android Auto view, press and hold the iDrive controller Menu button.

Why Android Auto MMI Prime Is Better than Other Retrofits

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

Full-screen Android Auto mode on all BMW display sizes

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime small screen main

  • Android screen mirroring 

Can Android Auto mirror the screen of my phone?” is a frequently asked question, and unfortunately, Android Auto doesn’t support screen casting. But Android Auto MMI Prime has a custom solution - the Android Autolink app. You just need to plug your mobile device into a USB socket, choose the app in the menu and your phone’s screen will be mirrored onto the iDrive display. It means that you’ll be able to stream YouTube for your passengers or other apps not available in Android Auto mode. You likely won’t be able to cast Netflix though, because the service blocks mirroring.

  • 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 (offline maps as well, if you download them to your phone first)

Android Auto Apps List

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

  • Stitcher, Podcast Addict, etc., for podcasts
  • What’sApp, Kik, WeChat, Skype, Messenger, etc., for communication (Google Assistant can read messages for you from all compatible apps)
  • TuneIn, Scout FM, etc., for radio
  • NYTimes, ABC News, NPR One, etc., for news
  • Many more

The full list you can find here.

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. Since then, it's gone through many changes. 

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.

Before

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime old look

2019

BMW Android Auto MMI Prime main

2020

Android Auto Update

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.

As you can see from the photo, they have a Google Assistant icon featured on the screen. So, when you click on it, 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.

Is there Android Auto with a Wireless Charger?

Android Auto MMI Prime doesn’t include wireless charging functionality. However, there is a Wireless Charger for 3-series F30 models that can be purchased separately. Before buying it, make sure your smartphone supports the feature. 

Why Has BMW Decided to Have Android Auto as Original Software?

Thousands of BMW owners were disappointed with not being able to use Android phones in their favorite vehicles. BMW claimed earlier that Android Auto was not secure enough in terms of user privacy. There’ve been also rumors that it’s just 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, plus thousands of BMW owners with Android phones, the new BMW CEO has finally decided to give way to Android Auto software. 

However, the decision to include Android Auto only into the newest models with the latest iDrive doesn’t actually solve the problems of the majority of BMW drivers. That’s why questions like “Can I reprogram my BMW to use Android Auto?” or “How to hack Android Auto?” continue to flood the web.

Will BMW ever incorporate Android Auto into 2018 and older models? Highly unlikely. 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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