How to Retrofit Apple CarPlay into an Older BMW 3 Series?

If you’re the proud owner of a BMW 3 Series, you’re already familiar with the impressive level of refinement and driving performance these vehicles offer. However, if your model predates the era when the CarPlay from Apple became a standard feature, you may feel that you’re missing out on this innovative piece of tech. Fortunately, retrofitting Apple CarPlay into an older BMW 3 Series isn’t as daunting a task as it might seem. In the following sections, you will learn how to integrate this system and relish the benefits that it brings with it.

Exploring Apple CarPlay and its Benefits

Apple CarPlay is an advanced car interface developed by Apple to allow iPhone users to connect their phones with their car’s infotainment system. It lets you access your phone’s key functions from the vehicle’s screen, including making calls, sending and receiving messages, listening to music, and using maps for navigation.

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One of the significant advantages of Apple CarPlay is its ease of use. The interface is almost identical to that of your iPhone, making it familiar and straightforward to navigate. It also supports Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant, allowing you to control your phone without taking your eyes off the road.

Notably, the latest versions of CarPlay also include a wireless option, which means you can connect your phone to your car without the need for a cable. It’s a feature that significantly enhances convenience and ease of use.

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Checking Your BMW 3 Series’ Compatibility

Before you can retrofit your BMW with Apple CarPlay, it’s essential to check if your series is compatible with this system. The key to achieving this is understanding the version of the infotainment unit, known as iDrive, installed in your vehicle.

The Apple CarPlay can work with NBTevo iDrive systems that are 2017 and newer. If your BMW 3 Series has an NBT unit, you might need to retrofit the car with NBTevo first before you can add Apple CarPlay. This information is usually found in your car’s user manual, or you can consult with a BMW service technician.

Retrofitting Your BMW 3 Series with Apple CarPlay

Once your BMW 3 Series has the updated iDrive system, you can integrate Apple CarPlay. The typical retrofitting Apple CarPlay into an older BMW 3 Series involves installing a multimedia interface (MMI) that connects your phone to the car’s system.

The first step in retrofitting your BMW 3 Series with Apple CarPlay is to obtain a CarPlay MMI unit. These units are readily available from various suppliers like iTrader. You’ll need to find a unit that’s compatible with your BMW’s iDrive system.

After purchasing the MMI unit, the next step is to install it into your BMW. You’ll need to remove the existing screen and the head unit in your car. The CarPlay MMI unit then fits into the slot where the old head unit was, and the new screen replaces the old one. It’s also vital to route the microphone cable to a spot where voice commands can be easily picked up, like near the steering wheel or the central console.

Connecting Your iPhone to Your Upgraded BMW 3 Series

After the installation process, you will be able to pair your iPhone with your car using the Apple CarPlay feature. To do this, you will need to use the USB port installed with the MMI unit if you’re connecting with a cable. If your MMI unit supports wireless CarPlay, you can connect your iPhone to your car via Bluetooth.

After connecting your phone, your car’s display screen will show the Apple CarPlay interface. You can then access and control your phone’s apps from the car’s touchscreen or via voice commands using Siri.

While retrofitting Apple CarPlay into an older BMW 3 Series requires a bit of work, the benefits are undeniable. It provides seamless integration of your iPhone into your car’s system, making it easier and safer to use your phone while driving. With this guide, you can enjoy the convenience and functionality of Apple CarPlay in your BMW 3 Series.

Remember, it’s always essential to test your system thoroughly after the installation to ensure that it works correctly. If you encounter any challenges during the retrofitting process, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a professional.

Understanding the Differences: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

As you consider retrofitting your BMW 3 Series with Apple CarPlay, it’s crucial to understand the differences between Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While both systems provide similar functionalities, they cater to different user bases and have varying compatibility with car manufacturers.

Apple CarPlay is designed for iPhone users, allowing you to access your phone’s key features from the car’s screen. From making calls to sending messages, playing music, and even using maps for navigation, you can do all these without taking your eyes off the road. Moreover, it supports Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant, which means you can control your iPhone hands-free. On the other hand, Android Auto is Google’s counterpart designed for Android phone users, offering similar functionalities, including the use of Google Assistant for voice-activated commands.

For retrofitting purposes, it’s important to remember that not all BMW Series are equipped with Android Auto. BMW started supporting Android Auto only recently, and it’s limited to certain models. Therefore, if you’re an Android user, you might want to consider this before deciding to retrofit your BMW 3 Series with Apple CarPlay.

In conclusion, both systems enhance the driving experience by integrating your smartphone into your car’s infotainment system. However, before deciding which one to install, you should consider your smartphone type and your BMW’s compatibility with each system.

Ensuring a Successful Retrofit: Tips and Suggestions

Retrofitting your BMW 3 Series with Apple CarPlay involves a detailed process. However, with careful planning and some fundamental understanding of the head unit and iDrive system, you can handle the retrofit successfully. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you ensure a successful retrofit.

Before you begin, make sure you have the correct CarPlay MMI unit compatible with your BMW’s iDrive system. You can find suitable units from various suppliers like iTrader. However, it’s essential to confirm the compatibility of the unit with your car’s system.

Another critical point to remember during the installation is routing the microphone cable correctly. Choose a spot where voice commands can be easily picked up, such as near the steering wheel or the central console. It will ensure Siri works effectively in your upgraded system.

Lastly, testing your system thoroughly after the installation is crucial. Ensure that your iPhone connects successfully to the car via Apple CarPlay, either using a cable or Bluetooth for wireless CarPlay. Also, try out all features, including making calls, sending messages, playing music, and using the navigation system.


Retrofitting Apple CarPlay into an older BMW 3 Series might seem like a daunting task at first. However, with the right information and a methodical approach, you can successfully install the system and enhance your driving experience. Whether you’re a tech enthusiast or looking for safer and easier ways to use your iPhone while driving, the retrofit will be a game-changer.

Remember that your BMW’s iDrive system version, the compatibility of the CarPlay MMI unit, and the correct installation of the microphone and screen are critical factors for a successful retrofit. Lastly, don’t forget to test all the features once the installation is complete.

If you run into any challenges or post-drive complications, don’t hesitate to consult a professional or seek assistance from BMW service technicians. Enjoy your upgraded BMW 3 Series and the convenience of Apple CarPlay for a more streamlined and safer driving experience.