Google I/O day one is just about a wrap, and with it came an absolute tsunami of news. Android is getting its biggest design overhaul in half a decade. Wear OS is being completely pivoted — and merging with Samsung Tizen?! Android Automotive is headed to more cars, and as usual, Google announced a smorgasbord of app updates and changes to apps you use every day. We've got all the big news here, and there's a lot of it, so let's buckle down and get through this stuff!
BMW was one of the last automakers to add Android Auto to its vehicles, and owners with compatible cars still have to go to the dealer to get the update. That's changing soon, though; BMW has just announced that an over-the-air update will start rolling out "over the coming weeks."
Virtually every major auto manufacturer has already incorporated Android Auto into their infotainment systems, leaving BMW as the final holdout. Although the company had claimed in 2017 that it had no plans to add Android Auto to their lineup, it must have changed its mind at some point, because it announced in December of last year that Android Auto would be coming in July 2020. Well, it's July 2020, and I can confirm that BMW has finally made this long-awaited Android Auto update available.
Want to stream Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video on your TV? Perhaps you're over the set-top box or dongle? Amazon has smartened up your choices, announcing the first Fire TV Edition soundbar this past fall. Today, the company has announced a new soundbar coming soon to the U.S. and Canada. And soon, you'll be able to stream into your in-vehicle entertainment system with the new Fire TV Edition for Auto.
Android Auto has been available for almost five years, and most automakers have gotten on board. BMW was a notable holdout, but that'll change next year. The company has announced Android Auto support for many of its vehicles, and it'll have wireless mode.
In an interview today with TechCrunch, Dieter May, Senior Vice President of Digital Services and Business Models, revealed that BMW has no current plans to integrate Android Auto into any of its cars. Instead, May prioritizes continued investment in ConnectedDrive, the brand's own platform of connected services.
Of course, this might all sound slightly hypocritical given that BMW already has several models with an option for Apple's CarPlay, or it may also be taken as a sign that the company may decide to drop support in the future once it feels satisfied with the quality of its own services. Apps for Automotive (A4A) is part of the ConnectedDrive platform and provides many of the same functionalities that are available on Android Auto, letting drivers connect and control their smartphones through BMW's own interface.
Is a key point of consideration for your next smartphone whether or not it has been endorsed by a world-renowned pianist? Great! The all-new ZTE Axon 7 is, in fact, endorsed by world-renowned pianist Lang Lang. This apparently has some sort of value. The Axon 7 also received design input from BMW's Designworks (yes, that BMW, the one that makes cars), audio consulting from a team of music conservatory professors (I am not making this up), and Dolby's Atmos surround sound. This phone is a veritable partnership tour de farce.
There's one car manufacturer I've been keeping my eye on when it comes to the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) and Android Auto: Mercedes-Benz. It's one of the most popular car brands in Lebanon for many reasons (some logical and others not so much) and I personally drive a C230 Kompressor that I love and find reliable and sturdy on our bumpy roads. However, until now, Mercedes-Benz has been an Apple Carplay partner, but nowhere to be seen on the OAA members page.
That changes today. The members list has been updated to add Mercedes-Benz, logo and website and all. The other heavyweight German manufacturer, BMW, is still MIA though.
Nokia has hinted at a sale of its HERE mapping and location unit since April, when it announced its merger with Alcatel-Lucent and a strategic review of HERE. The rumors at the time pegged Uber and unnamed German carmakers to be interested in the acquisition, then were more substantiated last month when Bloomberg revealed that the trio of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz were the most likely candidates.
That information proved out to be true, even down to the suggested sale price: 2.5 Billion Euros (around $2.74 Billion), which is way less than what Nokia paid when it bought HERE's grandparent NAVTEQ for $8.1 Billion in 2008.
Nokia, in their continuing withdrawal from the mobile phone and software industry, appears close to selling off their best remaining asset in that market: HERE Maps. According to a report by Bloomberg, Nokia will sell their mapping technology and know-how to Germany's three biggest automakers, BMW, Audi (owned by Volkswagen), and Mercedes-Benz. Though they typically compete against one another, each shares common concerns about Google's market position and privacy policies.
The report estimates the asking price of HERE to be nearing $4 billion USD, though the final offer may be closer to $2.5 billion. While that sounds like a big number, HERE is a product of Nokia's acquisition of NAVTEQ for $8.1 billion in 2008.