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Retrofit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto FAQ

Here at Integrated Automotive we live and breath Apple CarpPlay and Android Auto, so we thought it would be a good idea to provide you with a detailed FAQ covering a wide range of topics relating retrofitting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into your vehicle. This FAQ relates to our IMI-1000 retrofit Carplay/Android Auto multimedia interface which is compatible with BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Range Rover and MINI vehicles.

IMI-1000 Retrofit CarPlay and Android Auto Interface
The IMI-1000 Retrofit CarPlay and Android Auto Interface – Compatible with BMW, Audi, Mercedes, VW, Mini, Range rover and Porsche Vehicles

1. What is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Apple CarPlay is a user interface designed by Apple Inc specifically for vehicles. It is designed to display applications from your phone onto the built-in display of your vehicle dash. Android Auto is designed by Android Inc/Google Inc and provides similar features to Apple CarPlay.

Here are some screenshots of Apple CarPlay

2. What Apps are available when using CarPlay and Android Auto?

Messages: iMessage, WhatsApp and various other messaging applications are available when using CarPlay/Android Auto. The driver (or passenger) can write, send and read messages using Siri/voice activation.

Music: iTunes(CarPlay only), Amazon Music, Spotify, Radio Apps such as Radio.net, BBC iRadio and many more can be used with the CarPlay/Android Auto application. Music is streamed from your phone to the CarPlay/Android Auto interface and then through your stereo system into the cabin using the existing stereo system in the car. The IMI-1000 interface will seamlesslessly integrate with your existing stereo system, delivering crisp audio via the auxiliary input on the built-in head unit.

Navigation: Apply Maps, Google Maps and Waze can be used for satellite navigation. The maps are always up to date, will react “real-time” to traffic jams and do not require a subcription unlike the the OEM maps offered by the vehicle manufacturers.

Audio Books and Podcasts: Why not listen to a book or podcast while you drive to work?

3. How much data is used when listening to the radio or Spotify etc via CarPlay?

CarPlay radio/music apps will use around 50mb/hour when streaming music. If you were to drive for 1hr per day for 1 month while constantly listening to music via one of the CarPlay music straming apps, you would require around 1.5GB of data.

4. Do I need factory navigation to use Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps?

No, this is one of the key benefits of our retrofit CarPlay/Android Auto upgrade – our system will effecitly upgrade “non-navigation” vehicles to become “nav-equipped”.

5. How does Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work?

Apple Carplay and Android Auto work by connecting your iPhone/Android phone to your in-car entertainment system, the iPhone/android phone will tranmit the CarPlay/Android user interface to the vehicles display via the retrofit Carplay/Android Auto interface (the IMI-1000) and also allows the driver to control carplay using the factory fitted entertainment controls such as BMW i-Drive or Audi MMI. CarPlay can connect wirelessly or via a USB cable.

The wireless connection method for CarPlay  is shown in the graphic below, you will notice the Bluetooth connection is dropped once the WiFi connection is established. Our IMI-1000 retrofit kit has both Bluetooth and WiFi antennas.

Once a WiFi connection is established between the iPhone and the IMI-1000 the Bluetooth connection is dropped
Once a WiFi connection is established between the iPhone and the IMI-1000 the Bluetooth connection is dropped

6. How do I install the retrofit CarPlay system?

A small multimedia computer called the IMI-1000 is installed behind the dash, it is connected to the rear of your existing iDrive/MMI/NTG head unit and a wiring loom is provided for “plug and play installation”. It provides an interface between your iPhone/Android phone and the BMW i-Drive / Audi MMI / Mercedes NTG entertainment system. It is very similar to the “factory fit” CarPlay options you see on some new cars except that it has been designed specifically for retro-fitting into older cars which have a built in LCD displays such as the example Audi MMI system being tested in our lab below;

Audi retrofit CarPlay and Android Auto test bench
This is our retrofit CarPlay and Android Auto kit running on an Audi A3 8V 7.0in display, running through our functional tests before despatch.

7. Does this replace my existing iDrive/MMI/NTG system?

No, the retrofit CarPlay/Android Auto system works in parallel with the existing iDrive/MMI/NTG system. For example, you can swtich between the two by pressing the MENU button on the BMW radio panel. You do not need to remove any of the BMW iDrive system components, you simply “add in” the IMI-1000 using the plug and play wiring loom. The same is true for Audi, Mercedes, Mini and VW.

8. How does CarPlay/Android Auto connect to my phone?

The IMI-1000 multimedia interface connects to your iPhone/Android phone using either a wireless bluetooth connection (CarPlay only) or the supplied USB connection. If connecting by USB the Vehicle will also charge your phone while using CarPlay/Android Auto.

9. Where is the retro-fit IMI-1000 CarPlay/Android Auto multimedia unit installed?

The IMI-1000 retrofit Carplay/Android auto unit is installed behind the vehicle dasboard, access is usually gained by removing the radio panel, head unit and a panel in the passenger footwell. The IMI-1000 is connected in-between the built in LCD/TFT display and the existing wiring loom. The IMI-1000 sends and receives the signals from the iPhone to the TFT display and the rest of the vehcile entertanment system. User control signals, such as BMW i-Drive or the Audi MMI control signals are interpreted by the IMI-1000 and utilised to control CarPlay. The IMI-1000 is a plug and play solution and no alterations to the OEM wiring loom are required. The CarPlay box can be removed at any time and the vehicle can be returned to factory specifications.

10. Can I connect wirelessly to the retrofit CarPlay/Android Auto system?

Yes, all IMI-1000 multimedia interfaces allow wireless Bluetooth connection(CarPlay only) as well as USB cable connection which will simultaneously charge your phone at the same time as communicating with the IMI-1000.

11. Does the standard vehicle microphone work with the IMI-1000?

If you are connecting to the car with a USB cable you can use the factory Bluetooth microphone for calls and Siri. We do supply a microphone and have performed thorough audio quality testing of OEM vehicle microphones, we recommend to use our microphone, as the sound quality benefits of the IMI-1000 microphone were substantial. The microphone is supplied with the retrofit kit and installation is simple. 

Note: Some vehicles Bluetooth can interfere with the wireless connection, in these cases we recommend using our microphone.

12. Where is the microphone installed?

We generally recommend installation near the rear view mirror, wiring normally run from the IMI-1000 along the inside of the rubber door seal “lip” and then around the windscreen behind the roof lining.

13. Does the main iDrive rotary controller and associated buttons work with CarPlay/Android Auto

?

Yes, the rotary knob is fully functional and is the main control interface to CarPlay/Android Auto.

13. Will the Audi MMI rotary controller and associated buttons work with CarPlay/Android Auto?

Yes, the rotary knob is fully functional and is the main control interface to CarPlay/Android Auto.

14. Does the CP box support steering wheel controls?

Yes, factory steering wheel controls such as volume control, OK and Cancel etc are compatible with the CarPlay/Android Auto interface.

15. Is it a DIY installation?

Yes absolutely, the retrofit CarPlay kit has been designed to be installed by anybody who is a competetent DIY’er. Please note, installation is performed at the installers risk and no responsibility can be taken for damage caused by the installer.

16. How do I know if my car already has CarPlay, and if it doesnt, how do I know if my vehicle is compatible with an IMI-1000 retrofit CarPlay/Android Auto system?

If your car is featured on our list of “Compatible vehicles”, then your vehcile does not have CarPlay factory installed. However, it will have the necessary hardware and software to enable you to use our IMI-1000 to retrofit CarPlay/Android Auto with our system.

17. Will my original stereo system still work after the IMI-1000 is installed (Dab, AM/FW, etc)?

Yes your standard in-car entertainment system remains fully functional. when you want to use CarPlay/Android Auto, you enable it by holding down the “8 digit” on the OEM car stereo. CarPlay will then be enabled and displayed on the LCD display, you can switch back to iDrive at any time.

18. Will my phone automatically connect to CarPlay when I get in the car?

Once initially paired, your iPhone will automatically connect to CarPlay when you get in the car.

19. I have a touch screen in my car, will a retrofit IMI-1000 CarPlay/Android Auto system use the touch screen?

Yes it will, if the vehicle has touch functionality then this function is fully compatible with the IMI-1000.

20. Can I listen to my DAB OEM radio at the same time as Carplay is running on my display?

Yes, the choice between the audio source is seperate to the what is displayed on the LCD screen. For example, you can be listening to your DAB radio at the same time as using Waze navigation. The only limitation is that you can only use one audio source at a time, if you are listening to DAB radio then you will not hear the navigation instructions from CarPlay/Android Auto. If you want to listen to music as well as hear navigation instructions, you can do this by using one of the excellent “Radio” apps such as Radio.net, BBC Radio Player or one of the many music apps including Spotify or Amazon music in carplay.

21. Is there a manufacturers warranty?

Yes, a 2 year return to base manufacturer warranty is offered.

22. Is the IMI-1000 CE marked?

Yes, the CP box has been through all relevant tests required by the EU directive 2014/53/EU. This includes all safety tests required for Bluetooth communications, emmisions testing and immunity testing.

23. Will the car interior still look and behave like a “factory spec model”?

Yes, the IMI-1000 is mounted inside the dash and does not interfere at all with “normal operation”of the vehicle, it also uses the original LCD display so no additional visible hardware is installed.

24. Where does the audio come from when using CarPlay/Android Auto?

The audio signal is generated from within the IMI-1000 using data passed to it from your phone, this is then connected via our wiring loom the AUX line in the vehicle. Audio is played when you enable “AUX” in the audio menu of the car.

25. Is the audio quality from the IMI-1000 of high quality?

Yes, absolutely – the IMI-1000 uses the highest of quality audio components including Japanese Capacitors in order to generate the best possible quality audio.

26. Does my vehicle require a GPS antenna to allow Google Maps, Waze or any of the other navigation applications to work properly?

No, you do not require a GPS antenna in the car as CarPlay will use your phone’s built-in GPS antenna. This is one of the great benefits of the IMI-1000 as vehicles without navigation can be “upgraded” to include navigation with Carplay. Not only that, Waze, Google Maps and Apple Maps are in our opinion far superior to the BMW/Audi/Mercedes navigation system.

27. Will the IMI-1000 be compatible with the latest iOS and Android software?

Yes, the IMI-1000 software is continually developed to be compatible with the latest iOS and Android software releases, upgrading your IMI-1000 is a simple process in which we send you the latest firmware, you upload it to a USB stick and connect the stick to the USB port in the vehicle. The software is then automatically uploaded to the CP box.

28. Will the factory fitted parking distance sensors (PDC) still work when I put the car into reverse?

Yes, the BMW/Audi/Mercedes etc parking distance sensors will still work when you put the car into reverse. If you are not installing an aftermarket reversing camera then be sure to make the correct setting (Reversing Camera->Original car) in the settings menu, this is found in the “BMW”, “Audi” or Mercedes” etc app on the CarPlay/Android Auto user interface (depending on your vehicle make).

29. I already have a factory fitted reversing camera, will this still work once the retrofit CarPlay interface is installed?

Yes, when the car is put into reverse, the central display switches to the BMW rear view camera and also activates the parking distance sensors.

30. If I have PDC’s but no factory fitted reversing camera, can I retrofit an aftermarket reversing camera that will work with CarPlay?

Yes you can, we recommend a 12V version. The aftermarket reversing camera (once fitted) needs to be enabled in the settings menu of the IMI-1000.