BMW’s Apple CarPlay annual fee is next-level gouging

A pricey up-front fee to enable a service freely available elsewhere is a bit hard to swallow in the real world. However, in the heady, premium-package-rich realm of German luxury cars, such price gouging is the norm. Prefer dark silver to light silver? That’ll be $1,500 extra. Alcantara inserts instead of leather? $750 at least. USB ports you can actually do something with? Better call your accountant.

If there’s a positive to this system, and I’m admittedly stretching here, it’s that you can get a car configured exactly to your needs, a car uniquely constructed to your exact specification. I imagine that’s a very nice feeling indeed, though I confess I’ve never had the wherewithal to enjoy such a luxury myself.  

While GM and other manufacturers happily include Apple’s CarPlay service for free even on their most attainable models, BMW and plenty of others have levied upgrade fees to enable CarPlay, or bundled the service inside pricey packages of widgets you may or may not want. That, sadly, is par for this margin-rich golf course, but when we learned this week that BMW would change from a single, up-front fee to an annual fee, in my mind that changed everything.

2019 Acura RDX Prototype

Instead of a one-time, $300 fee, starting on 2019 models BMW will charge $80 annually for the privilege of accessing Apple’s otherwise totally free CarPlay service. You do get the first year free, much like your friendly neighborhood dealer of another sort, but after that it’s pay up or have your Lightning cable metaphorically snipped.

On the surface this is pretty offensive, and it seemed like something must be driving this. The official word from BMW is that this is a change that will save many (perhaps most) BMW owners money. Indeed, the vehicle segments where BMW plays are notorious for short-term leases, and those owning the car for only a few years will save money over that one-time $300. But still, the notion of paying annually for something that’s free rubbed me the wrong way. And, based on the feedback we saw from the article, it rubbed a lot of you the wrong way, too.

And then I read that Matt Bubbers, an automotive journalist for the Globe Mail, was given a curious statement by a representative from BMW Canada. He was told that Apple will be changing its fee structure such that manufacturers would need to pay on a per-car, per-annum basis to keep CarPlay running. That statement has since been retracted and a BMW Canada representative told me that Mr. Bubbers was given “inaccurate information.” However, in the confused hours in between initial statement and subsequent retraction, I was left wondering: just what does Apple charge for CarPlay, and indeed what does Google charge for Android Auto?

The answer, as I’d find out, is basically nothing — though it is a little more complicated than that.

In speaking with multiple sources at various manufacturers who offer cars with Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto, I was quickly able to confirm that such fees, at least right now, do not exist. CarPlay and Android Auto, which are free for we consumers to use, are also provided for free for manufacturers to embed into their cars.

CarPlay isn’t entirely free, however. As Markdown inventor and Apple guru Jon Gruber pointed out on Twitter, car manufacturers who wish to officially support Apple products must pay a licensing fee to enter Apple’s Made for iPhone (MFi) program, just like any other licensed accessory maker. As Gruber was able to confirm, however (and I was able to verify), this is a one-time fee. And, while I could not get anyone to disclose the exact fees entailed, it’s quite clear that there’s no additional fee for CarPlay on top of the base MFi license.

And there are other potential costs for manufacturers. There’s surely additional testing and development required to implement the thin-client interface that serves up Apple CarPlay, plus the potential for software updates down the road. However, the beauty of CarPlay and Android Auto is that they run almost entirely on your phones, and so the cars shouldn’t really need updates.

So we’re back to square one: BMW is effectively putting a paywall in front of a service that is provided to you and to me for free. As I pondered this I couldn’t help but start seeing the parallel to the tenuous state of net neutrality in the USA. Imagine if your internet provider started charging $5 a month to enable YouTube and you’re not far off from what BMW is doing here.

This is of course net neutrality in an abstract sense: Automobiles, even the most pedestrian, are private, commercial products. As such, manufacturers are free to charge whatever they like for whatever features they like. That’s just like how Electronic Arts is free to charge whatever it wants for DLC and other enhancements to its latest games, and we’ve all seen how well that’s gone lately

Airbnb purges thousands of its San Francisco listings overnight

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Airbnb deactivated thousands of San Francisco hosts to be in accordance with new legislation.


Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

If you were hoping to rent out a room on Airbnb in San Francisco, the pickings just got a lot slimmer.

New legislation went into effect on Wednesday requiring all Airbnb hosts to register with the city. As a consequence, more than half of Airbnb’s listings in the city disappeared practically overnight.

In August, Airbnb listed about 8,900 short-term rentals in San Francisco and on Wednesday that number dropped to a little over 4,000, San Francisco’s Office of Short-term Rentals told CBS local affiliate KPIX.

“We’ve seen upwards of 6,000 listings removed from the short-term rental platform,” Kevin Guy, director of the city’s Office of Short-Term Rentals, told KPIX. “That’s a substantial number that represents a real dramatic shift.”

Airbnb and San Francisco have a long history. The home rental site first launched its service in San Francisco in 2008 and the company still maintains its headquarters there. San Francisco was also one of the first cities in the world to work with Airbnb to make short-term rentals legal.

It passed a law in 2014 that’s gone through several iterations. Ultimately, the law dictates that people can rent rooms or their entire home for up to 90 days a year when they aren’t around. Hosts present during homestays are allowed to lease rooms year-round.

But, according to a settlement deal reached between Airbnb and San Francisco last May, all hosts must be registered with the city. The deadline to register was Tuesday at midnight. After that, Airbnb was required to purge all unregistered listings.

“We are proud to have worked with lawmakers in our hometown to create clear, fair home sharing rules that ensure every listing on the Airbnb platform is in full compliance with local regulations and protect our business over the long term,” said Airbnb spokeswoman Mattie Zazueta.

San Francisco lawmakers said the registration component is important because it creates a way for the city to enforce its law. The city’s ultimate goal is to prevent people from turning rentable homes into makeshift hotels, especially when San Francisco is going through a housing shortage.

Airbnb says it’s removed 4,680 listings from its website. It says the majority of these listings were basically inactive. For example, 35 percent of Airbnb’s San Francisco listings had no activity for the last six months.

As for those hosts who were active but didn’t register, Airbnb believes there are a couple of possible explanations. It’s possible tenants didn’t want to ask their landlords for permission to sublet on Airbnb or people didn’t want to pay the required registration fees of $340 to the city.

Other short-term rental companies, like HomeAway and FlipKey, also saw a drop in listings this week, according to KPIX. For instance, FlipKey went from 555 listings to about 57 on Wednesday.

San Francisco’s Office of Short-term Rentals didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.

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Facebook and YouTube are removing ‘Tide Pod Challenge’ videos

Normally, it’s only small infants who mistake the detergent-filled pods for candy or whatever and chow down on the brightly-colored cleaning bombs. But thanks to the #TidePodChallenge, a colossal flow of idiots have willingly ingested these toxic unedibles because someone on the internet passively dared everyone to do it. Now it’s a public health issue that might become an actual crisis, because apparently an unaddressed opioid epidemic isn’t catastrophic enough.

It’s gotten so bad that in the first 15 days of 2018, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received as many calls about intentional consumption of laundry pods as it did in the entirety of 2016, according to CNN. Tide had to hastily shoot and upload a video where The Gronk of the New England Patriots tells the world not to eat the pods.

Facebook will remove #TidePodChallenge content from its site and Instagram. In addition to taking down the videos, Google will give anyone who posts footage of anyone eating Tide Pods a strike on their channels for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines, which were already there, and content uploaders should’ve known better. (News reports mentioning the Tide Pod Challenge are fine, however.)

“YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm. We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies,” a YouTube spokesperson told Engadget.

Kidrobot’s DIY Munny

In the middle of Winter and it’s too cold to go out…. you can sit in front of Netflix and watch too many episodes of something that you like, but isn’t your favorite. Kidrobot is giving you the option of doing something a little more interactive. There is Chris Holt aka the Toy Viking on how Kidrobot can help!

Winter has come and made it rather unbearable to go outside.  Knee deep snow and bone chilling temperatures have created hermits out of many of us.  We’re outside long enough to get in the car, go to work, and then return home before our extremities succumb to the sickening kiss of frost bite.  The problem with being indoors is that eventually youre gonna get tired of it.  There’s only so many shows you can binge watch before your brain turns to mush and cabin fever sets in.  The best thing to pull you out of a winter rut is to create something and Kidrobot has tons of DIY figures that are just waiting for you to work on.  You can draw on em, paint em with a brush, doodle with markers, build on em with clay, or transform them in any other possible fashion you can think of.  And the thing that is cool is not only are you expressing your inner most desire to create, but you never know who will see it.  Countless figures have been produced by Kidrobot because someone in the company discovered an awesome design on social media.  You could join artists like The Bots, Squink, J*ryu and tons more who saw their artistic visions become toy shelf staples all over the world.  Is there anything cooler than having your own toys?  Not that I can think of.

 

 

 

 

 

It all starts with an idea and one of our DIY figures.  Available now at www.kidrobot.

Infiniti will electrify lineup, debut EV in 2021

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If the future of Infiniti looks this good, it could be powered by coal and small animals, for all I care.


Jon Wong/Roadshow

Since the Detroit Auto Show is winding down, it’s time for automakers to get back to what they do best — discussing lofty goals for electrifying their entire lineups!

Infiniti announced at the tail end of Detroit that it plans to electrify its lineup starting in 2021. From that point forward, new Infiniti vehicles will be offered with electrified powertrains, whether that means a proper EV or what Infiniti calls an “e-Power” vehicle.

E-power is Infiniti’s term for an extended-range electric vehicle, like a range-extended BMW i3 or a Chevrolet Volt. There’s a gas engine on board, but its job is to provide charging — and, thereby, extra range — to the electric propulsion system. It’s unclear if Infiniti will also supply plug-in hybrids and other types of electrification, or if it’s limiting itself to EVs and range-extended EVs.

Specifically on the EV front, Infiniti claims 2021 will also be the year the company launches its first battery-electric car, although the company didn’t offer any specifics beyond that. It’ll be a big deal, though, so I imagine the teasing will start some time around the end of this decade.

Infiniti hopes that its electrified vehicles will comprise more than half of its global sales by 2025, which is a lofty goal, considering that means its buyers would have to leap into its electrified offerings en masse over the course of four short years. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how Infiniti’s strategy pans out as we get closer to that date.

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