Having Apple CarPlay for BMW can make a huge difference when you’re out on the road — as anybody who has used Apple’s infotainment system will confirm. But that doesn’t mean you won’t ever come up against the odd thing that makes you wish there were some BMW CarPlay hacks to help you get even more out of your CarPlay-equipped BMW iDrive. If you’ve ever tried to use NetFlix on CarPlay, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
Well, as the BMW technology experts, we know exactly how to step up your CarPlay game. But these little tips and tricks aren’t just for people who already have all the latest CarPlay features in their BMW, because (spoiler alert) it’s possible to activate Apple CarPlay for BMW, too. And with our brand-new, HDMI-equipped CarPlay MMI PRO, your iDrive screen will become a part of a true mobile movie theater.
Read on to find out how to enhance the video experience in your car.
What apps work with Apple CarPlay?
If CarPlay has a downside, it’s that not all iOS apps are supported on the platform. Your iPhone’s games and video apps, for example, won’t show up on your CarPlay menu, which means no Netflix on CarPlay. (Then again, there might be a few workarounds that we’ll get to in a moment…)
On the other hand, you shouldn’t have any problems finding your favorite navigation, messaging or music apps. Apps that work with CarPlay include Google Maps or Waze, SMS or WhatsApp, Spotify or YouTube Music, and CarPlay will let you use it on your dashboard display.
Check out the best Apple CarPlay apps for BMW
And those apps you can’t get through CarPlay? Can you play Netflix on Apple CarPlay, or do you have to make do with only music and podcasts to keep you entertained on a long road trip?
Watch Netflix on Apple CarPlay with Apple TV
If you’ve ever tried to play Netflix on Apple CarPlay, you’ve probably noticed the app doesn’t show up on your BMW’s CarPlay menu. BMW wants your eyes planted squarely on the road, and while that’s something we’d obviously also recommend, there are some situations when knowing how to watch Netflix on Apple CarPlay can come in handy.
Say you’re parked up at a rest area on a long drive, and want to put on an episode of your favorite series to help pass the time. Or maybe you’re travelling with children, and want something to keep them entertained.
In that case, there is a way to watch Netflix in your BMW… it’s not exactly on CarPlay though.
Netflix works fine on Apple TV, and while you’re probably more used to seeing that in people’s living rooms, you can take it along for the drive, too!
Turn Your BMW into a Mobile Movie Theater with CarPlay MMI PRO!
Fortunately, streaming services work just fine on digital media players, like Google Chromecast, Amazon Firestick, and Apple TV (more on this one later). While you’re probably used to seeing that in people’s living rooms, with our CarPlay MMI PRO, you can now take one of them along for the drive, too!
Since the MMI PRO comes standard with an HDMI port, you’ll be able to connect a wide range of video playback devices. Media sticks mentioned above will let you access your favorite streaming services, such as Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney+, or Apple TV. Apart from your regular media sticks, it’s possible to share the view from a laptop or Nintendo Switch gaming console to your iDrive screen.
However, video streaming is not the only feature offered by the MMI PRO. Your car doesn’t come standard with any cellular connectivity options? After installing our retrofit, you’ll be able to benefit from the added CarPlay (or Android Auto) capability and effortlessly connect your smartphone to your BMW or MINI. The MMI PRO is also great for integration of front and rear view camera retrofits.
The CarPlay MMI PRO unit is compatible with 95% of BMW models produced since 2008.
Watch Videos on Your iDrive Screen with Apple TV
What if you don’t care about CarPlay or you already have it, but you would still like to have the option to watch movies when taking a break on a long drive?
An alternative option is BimmerTech’s SmartView HD with Apple TV4. It includes an original Apple TV4 box specially adapted for in-car use. The set comes with a remote, plus all the hardware needed to integrate it with your BMW iDrive. Installing this upgrade will let you switch to Apple TV using the iDrive controller, then watch content from any Apple TV streaming app you want. Please note that to navigate within the media box you need to use a remote or smartphone.
How to watch TV on Apple Carplay?
Of course, with a fully-fledged Apple TV4 setup in your BMW or MINI, you’re also free to watch any of the other content available in your living room, including popular TV channels like ABC, Fox, Bloomberg, or NBC. Unlike its predecessors, Apple TV4 supports the App Store, so finding new stuff to watch is as simple as downloading the apps you want.
Traditional television is also available on other digital media players, like Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast with its Google TV system and over 800 free TV channels available. Note that the availability of different television networks may vary from one device to another and depending on your location. So be sure to check what’s supported on your stick!
Adding both CarPlay and video capability to your iDrive sounds neat, doesn’t it? Especially if you have an older car or if your model wasn’t optioned with any phone connectivity features. Don’t worry though, getting the two won’t cost you an arm and a leg! If you buy CarPlay MMI PRO and Apple TV4 together in a set from us, you can get a discount of over $300 – really not that much for leveling up your infotainment.
Watch YouTube on Apple CarPlay with AirPlay
Apple TV also includes built-in support for AirPlay, so you can mirror any AirPlay-compatible content from your iPhone to the iDrive screen with SmartView HD Apple TV4.
But if you aren’t interested in watching Netflix in your BMW (the app uses DRM technology to prevent screen mirroring, which means Apple TV is the only way), it’s absolutely possible to use CarPlay instead, and mirror other content — including YouTube — to your iDrive screen.
There isn’t any native AirPlay to CarPlay feature, but BimmerTech’s CarPlay MMI PRO retrofit for BMW comes with both CarPlay and AirPlay support, so as well as all the standard apps from Apple CarPlay, YouTube can be cast via screen mirroring from your iPhone. It’s not quite YouTube on CarPlay, but it’s YouTube and CarPlay without jailbreak, which is at least as good. When you factor in the other extra features a third-party retrofit can include alongside CarPlay, you’re looking at a powerful and flexible infotainment system.
Play video on CarPlay from USB or DVD
For example, whereas the native BMW CarPlay system is wireless only, CarPlay MMI PRO supports both wireless connection, and wired connection through a USB port. That USB port doubles up as a way to play saved video files straight from a USB.
That can be a much more stable option on a long road trip, when streaming video on Apple CarPlay isn’t always possible. Just download your content before you set off, and have constant access to it, without worrying about patchy mobile signal.
For BMWs that include a DVD player, that adds another way to get video going in your vehicle. And while from the factory, video playback is likely to be blocked when your vehicle starts to move, with BimmerTech’s easy video in motion coding for BMW, you won’t have to be parked up to play your content.
How to get CarPlay on BMW?
So that’s covered a few extra options that offer things CarPlay doesn’t. To get the full package, though, you’d need CarPlay, too, so what if you don’t already have it from the factory? Do you have to go without, or is there a way to activate Apple CarPlay in your BMW?
As long as you’ve got a suitable iDrive system, there is. The latest BMWs often have all the hardware required to run wireless Apple CarPlay, and only need a software activation to start using it. The same goes for MINIs, with many of the latest models coming ready for CarPlay, making it easy to retrofit Apple CarPlay in a MINI Cooper.
BMW Apple CarPlay Activation
In that case, you won’t even need to leave home to activate BMW-original Apple CarPlay; BimmerTech’s skilled technician can unlock CarPlay for you in a 30-minute remote coding session. Depending on your vehicle, you may not even need that — our innovative USB activation procedure requires no more than copying an activation file to a USB drive and plugging it into your BMW’s USB port.
However you get CarPlay for BMW, you’ll be able to do it at a time that suits you, without having to leave your car at the shop overnight. Before you know it, you’ll be using all your favorite iPhone apps in your BMW, which is exactly why so many people want Apple CarPlay for BMW and MINI.
BMW Apple CarPlay Retrofit
If you own an older vehicle, you can still enjoy a BMW Apple CarPlay retrofit that offers all the same apps you’d get with CarPlay baked in. It only needs a hardware installation.
BimmerTech’s CarPlay MMI PRO retrofit for BMW is a hardware device that connects to your BMW’s iDrive system and factory dashboard screen. It offers both Apple CarPlay and iOS screen mirroring in a single package — great not just for checking up-to-the-minute directions, but also mirroring other content from your iOS device. And, as we described earlier, you can even play videos on CarPlay MMI PRO!
If your friends and family use Android, it includes Android Auto support, too, so everybody will be able to cast content from their phones.
CarPlay MMI PRO is available for almost all BMWs from the previous few generations that don’t have native support for Apple CarPlay. So if you were waiting to enjoy CarPlay (and an Apple CarPlay video hack or two, too), there’s no reason not to.