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Pandora vs. Sirius in a BMW. Winner takes it all?

Interesting | May 3rd, 2011 by 19
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There’s a life long question that we’re faced with everyday: are pay services always better? Or are free apps just as good? I set out …

There’s a life long question that we’re faced with everyday: are pay services always better? Or are free apps just as good? I set out to answer just that.

BMW has been selling Sirius Satellite Radio in its vehicles for quite some time now. The receiver unit costs $350 and comes with a 1-year paid subscription. It will cost an additional $12.95 plus taxes, per month after the initial paid period.

SO what do I get for all that money? Howard Stern? Yes, Howard Stern, but you also get exclusive content such as, NFL, MLB, Hockey, Oprah, and 130 channels of commercial free music. And let’s not forget, digital quality music coast to coast. Only caveat is your car needs a clear view of the sky. It will not work in your garage, a parking deck, or the Lincoln Tunnel on your way to work.

However, this is easily overlooked when you realize that you can set off on a long trip from NYC to LA and never have to tune the station. That’s a home run in my book!

Now we have a new contender for our affection. Pandora radio. Last week, BMW of North American announced that Pandora for iPhone is the first the third party app approved for the new BMW Apps feature. For those of you not familiar with Pandora, allow us to take a step back. Pandora, a FREE app available for multiple smartphone platforms,  provides commercial free (to a certain extent) music. There’s no exclusive content such as Howard Stern or the other channels, but for the most part, almost the same music. Pandora also brings a social feeling to its app, along with a recommendation engine based on different criteria.

What’s the catch though? First, the importance to have an unlimited data plan on your smartphone or the data charges will give you a coronary! It certainly works with any data plan offerings, but the bandwidth can quickly rise in the gigabytes levels. A data plan monthly price varies these days from $30 to $40.

Pandora works excellently in your BMW using the free download from Apple’s App Store called “BMW Connected.” You will also need a new BMW with a March 2011 production and onward, along with a $250 option called “BMWApps.” Now the costs are starting to add up.

But wait! There is more. You will also have to order the BMW Media Sync cradle which sells for $266. That makes your total cost of integrating and listening to Pandora a $516 endeavor. After that, you’re done! No monthly expense….ever! Except your phone’s data plan. An important factor, don’t forget.

Oh, and one more thing. Part of BMW’s Connected Drive App is a functionality called “Web Radio”.  Here is where it gets interesting. “Web radio” requires the same unlimited data plan, BMW’s media sync cradle, but allows you to listen to music from around the world, right down to choosing your country and genre of music.

When you’re done throwing your car around the twisties of your favorite mountain pass, you can listen to BMW’s Web Radio on your iPhone anywhere you have wifi or data connection. How’s that for dual purpose?

I’m not going to tell you which I prefer but I will say this…Bababooey!

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  • J B Shehata

    I have a 2008 128i, and I use pandora all the time using the iPod connector. No need for special software, or hardware. I can’t contol it through the car stereo though, but for me that’s not a big deal.

    • Manny Antunes

      You’re right that it works wonderfully through the Aux input. But by integrating the Web radio,pandora, and Social Media feeds into the iDrive, BMW ensure an additional level of safety. Keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shane-Sexton/1069068526 Shane Sexton

      This is great news, I just got a 2008 328xi with iDrive last week, I’ll have to give this a shot tomorrow. I used to love my last vehicle that had a Pioneer AVIC with full Pandora, and Pioneer Apps integration.

  • Vince83

    The article is incorrect. You don’t need to install BMW Connected App and you do not need to buy the snap-in adapter to get Pandora fully integrated. You just start Pandora and connect the iPhone with the Apple provided cable to the USB port of the car. The $266 snap-in cradle currently just gives you video out and PlugIn features (basically iPod looking menu on the nav screen).

    • Manny Antunes

      Appreciate the feedback Vince. Connecting an iPhone through the current USB using the Apple provided cable does not allow you to control the Pandora functions using the steering wheel controls nor the iDrive.

      • Vince83

        I can control it from the steering wheel and iDrive. My car is post March 2011 production. If yours isn’t, that is the problem. If you’d like, I can make and upload a video in youtube. I got the snap-in adapter for the video and PlugIn function, but Pandora works without it the same way!

        • Manny Antunes

          You are correct. The car i was using for the demo is a 2012 650convert. It has the plugin BMW APPS standard. The purpose of the cradle is for Video and plug in functions. The web radio requires both the Connected Drive app, BMW APPS.

          Congrats on the new car..

  • IDon

    Comparing Pandora and Sirius is like comparing a Kia to a Ferrari, you get what you pay for! Get Sirius!!!

    • Manny Antunes

      Like i said, I’d pay more just to get Howard Stern… ;-)

    • 650Alan

      Not if you don’t care about (or loath) Howard Stern. Pandora is far more reliable in the car than Sirius, it is MUCH higher quality (believe me I know the Sirius bit rates) and for $36/yr it is commercial and DJ blab free. All that and you can use your account in the car, the office and home at the same time with different content. By the way, in the rare event that you lose signal Pandora pauses and picks up where you left off. It does that when you get a phone call too. Let’s see Sirius do that! Pandora, Ferrari hands down!

  • Janbottcher

    Gentelmen
    As an owner of 2008 M3 and living in Vancouver, Canada with special interest read about the Pandora radio now made available In BMW North America 2011 models. Is it going to be possible to install Pandora radio in earlier models such as 2008 M3 and the availability of the said radio in Canada. So far Pandora radio is not available in Canada to the dissapointment of the many fans. Thank you. Jan Bottcher

    • Manny Antunes

      Hi Jan, thanks for the interest. Unfortunately BMW has no control over Pandora and it’s offerings. As for integrating it with your 08 M3, when Pandora becomes available, you will still be able to listen to it through the Aux input. You can also download the BMW Connected Drive App from Apple’s App store and listen to the Web radio through the same Aux Input. But you won’t be able to retrofit the BMW APPS and docking cradle to the older vehicles.

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  • Nnnn

    Facebook and twitter are pretty dumb things to be occupying the driver with.

  • Veilguy

    For $10/month get Rhapsody…you’ll never look back.

    VG

    • http://twitter.com/mgalicki Mike Galicki

      Ya, I never understood the allure of Pandora.  People love it, but I would rather use Rhapsody and pull up playlists and albums that I want to listen to from start to finish.  Gone are the days when people loved to listen to albums in their entirety from start to finish they way they were intended to be.  Now we just want .99$ hit songs and can’t be bothered by the rest.  
      Would be nice if Rhapsody playlists and what not could be controlled by idrive.  The TuneIn Radio integration is nice though. 

  • Hurricane1394

    I just purchased a 2012 750i ! I’m interested in getting Pandora to display on the Nav Screen. I didn’t get the BMW Apps or the Cradle. The question is can I still get Pandora & iPod to display on the screen if I purchase the cradle? Can I purchase the BMW Apps as a software update? 

  • Nick

    I recently updated the software on my iPhone 4 to iOS 5 and now my 2011 X3 no longer connects to Pandora when plugged into the vehicle. As a result I decided to give Mog a try….same result!Hopefully this can be fixed by the Pandora and Mog developers by merely updating their apps….the only question is how long I will have to wait…

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