Android and iPhone Mirroring in your BMW i3

BMW’s iDrive system provides one of the industry’s best in car access to entertainment, navigation, text messaging, and more.  Despite its advancements, it is no match for the power of a cell phone which is able to run an endless library of navigation apps like Waze or Google/Apple Maps, media apps like Plex or Youtube, home automation and security apps, and so much more.  This article shows you how to install and use an Apple TV and iPhone/Android mirroring with your BMW i3 iDrive Screen.

Warning

  1. You also assume any risk(s) associated with and will not hold myself, equipment providers, and or others liable for ANY misuse due to unsafe driving practices.

Distracted driving kills.  Be alert.  Be responsible.

Pros

  • Run native Apple TV apps
    • Watch Netflix, Youtube, ESPN, HBO, Hulu, PBS, and more
  • Mirror any app from your phone
    • Run any navigation app you want (Waze, Apple Maps, Google Maps, etc)
    • Run any video app you want (YouTube, Plex, Tivo, Amazon Prime, Netflix, locally stored videos, etc)
    • Run any music app you want (YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, locally stored music, etc)
    • Communicate how you want (FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)
    • Check up on valuables (Home security cameras, Find Friends, etc)
    • Keep the kids and guests entertained
    • Impress your friends
    • And anything else you can do on your phone
  • Allows you to add front and rear cameras
  • Allows you to connect an additional HDMI device (ex. hdmi wired iPhone, dedicated wired iPad, a docked Nintendo Switch, etc).

Cons

  • Distracted driving risks (see Warning section)
  • Cost ($600 + install)
  • Clarity (video is a little dark and lowered resolution)
  • Performance (at times my phone struggled to mirror smoothly)
  • Complications (enabling personal hotspot, turning on mirroring, rotating your phone properly, etc)
  • Vehicle wear (I broke and scratched a thing or two during the install)

Equipment

The heart of this install requires:

  • Bimmertech SmartVIew HD ($250)
    • This integrates an Apple TV with your iDrive, allowing you to run Apple TV apps along with mirroring your iPhone to the iDrive screen.  It also gives you an additional HDMI input plus inputs for aftermarket front and rear cameras (if your car was not equipped or you wanted to replace them)
    • Note: Android users should choose the Bimmertech SmartView HD Flex which does not come with an Apple TV.  The rest of this article will purely focus on the SmartView HD, Apple TV, and iPhone mirroring.
  • Multimedia Interface ($350)
    • Its a required “option” when purchasing one of the above.

DO NOT ORDER UNTIL YOU CONFIRM COMPATIBILITY BELOW!

Compatibility

The BimmerTech SmartView devices DO NOT work in every BMW and BMW i3.  You ned to have Bimmertech verify your VIN for compatibility.  While you could check your VIN here:

https://www.bimmer-tech.net/vincheck/

I found the tool above to be inaccurate (I suspect the tool needs updating as the BMW i3 is a new offering for Bimmertech).  Contact Bimmertech (phone, email, or chat) directly.

Installation

BImmerTech did a pretty good job documenting the install (BimmerTech install doc).  Below are some quick, incomplete notes about the sections I remembered.  IN OTHER WORDS, THESE ARE NOT COMPLETE< STANDALONE INSTRUCTIONS.  PLEASE DO NOT FOLLOW VERBATIM, FOLLOW THE INSTALL DOC FIRST AND THEN READ THE BELOW TO COMPLIMENT  – I’ll update this section more when I have time.

  1. Before you start
    1. Ensure you are prepared to pretty much take your entire interior apart and spend hours working on this
    2. Use plastic pry tools mean to remove trim
    3. Get a longer 3.5mm to stereo rca cable to be able to route from the center console, under the passenger seat, along the side trim, and to the glove box.  The one included in the kit is too short.
  2. Configure the MMI dip switches
    1. NOTE: ON is down (closest to the numbers) and OFF is up
    2. NOTE: While I only configured the switches for 1 HDMI input (the Apple TV), I will later modify my install to allow for a second HDMI input for a direct iPhone HDMI connection.
  3. Disconnect the battery
    1. TIP: Ensure the doors are unlocked and alarm is off before disconnecting the battery.
    2. Remove the cover and loosen the nut holding the clamp to the battery post.

    3. Put something between the disconnected clamp and the battery post (to prevent accidental connection while working on the vehicle)
  4. Remove the rear seat
    1. Simply pull up on the seat from the front (like you’re trying to flip it into the trunk).
    2. Slip the belt buckles out of the seat and remove the set from the car.
  5. Disconnect the head unit
    1. I don’t think it was necessary to remove the head unit and or disconnect any connection other than the main harness.
    2. Disconnect the main harness
  6. Remove the Display
    1. Remove the 2 caps from behind the display.  Be careful as these caps EASILY chip, bend, cut, etc.
    2. Unscrew the 2 screws
    3. Pull the display up and forward.
    4. Disconnect the video cable and put the display to the side.
  7. Remove the glove box
    1. Pop out the right vent first.
    2. Put something to protect the dash behind the glovebox.  As you take the glovebox out, it will press on the dash and can permanently mark it up.
    3. Remove the 6 caps and then 6 screws (remember the caps damage EASILY)
    4. Pull the glovebox out (careful not to scratch the dash) and disconnect the 2 cables.  Put the glovebox to the side.
  8. Remove the side trim
    1. Remove the corner trim to the left of the seat
    2. Remove the side trim
    3. Unscrew the front right speaker trim (maybe its an air vent, I’ll just call it a speaker) and then pop it out enough to slip through cables
  9. Connect the head unit
    1. NOTE: While the instructions talk about a fiber optic cable, my car did not have one (confirmed by calling Bimmertech support)
    2. Connect the MMI harness to the head unit and then the head unit harness to the MMI harness
  10. Connect the audio
    1. I took apart the center console, cut the 3.5mm plug off, and wired it inline with the wires connecting to the back of the AUX jack.  This hides the connection (looks better), allows other devices to plug into the AUX jack, and free accidental bumping, breaking, and or spillage onto the audio cable.
  11. Route the cables
    1. Route the MMI power cable from the rear seat along the passenger side trim.
    2. Route the audio cable down the center console, under the passenger seat and rug, and then along the passenger side trim.
    3. Run both cables under and up behind the bottom right speaker and into the glover box.
  12. Connect the display
    1. Route the ir cable to the left where the plastic display mount meets the dash
    2. Pull the the original display video cable to the glove box and connect to the MMI
    3. Connect the MMI video cable to the MMI and route up to where the original display video cable was.
  13. Connect the MMI
    1. Connect the MMI power cable, audio in, Apple TV USB, and Apple TV HDMI to the MMI
    2. Mount the Apple TV straight back into the glovebox, above the ac duct
    3. Mount the MMI to the left of the glovebox (under the display, sort of)
  14. A bunch of other stuff I forgot and have run out of time to write
  15. Put the vehicle back together (easier said then done)

Configuring the Apple TV

The following assumes you know how to setup a hotspot on n iPhone and how to configure an Apple TV.  The basic steps to configure the Apple TV for iPhone mirroring in your i3 are:

  1. Turn on your phone’s hotspot (this is how the Apple TV gets network access – you need this to mirror yours phones display)
  2. Configure the Apple TV’s network settings to connect to your phone’s hotspot
  3. Name your Apple TV
  4. Update your Apple TV’s software

Usage

  1. Set your audio to AUX
  2. Hold the iDrive menu button for 3 seconds

Conclusion

This is a pretty cool, long, and useful i3 modification.  I’ll probably expand on it by 1) installing a front view camera (I don’t think mine or any i3 has one) and 2) installing an iPhone HMDI+charge cable (to use as an option to the Apple TV).