Bettina Streit
Published on under Usability, User Experience

BMW i3 – Digital #newground (#Neuland)?

I have a new car! And I was really looking forward to it. On the one hand, a new car is, of course, always exciting. On the other hand, because I have decided on a vehicle with electric drive out of conviction. The principle of environment and joy of innovation is integral to our household. My husband drives a Tesla.

Rooted in Bavaria, my choice was already, for patriotic reasons, on the BMW i3. As a UX expert, of course I put the i3 under the magnifying glass from the user’s perspective.

 “Sheer Driving Pleasure? Right!”

The BMW i3 was developed for sustainable transportation, which does not detract from the fun of driving it. Driving with the electric drive eDRIVE just makes me happy. Especially because it is so quiet. A huge difference from my previous car – a roaring Porsche 911 4S.

I also like the efficient use of energy recovery through anticipatory driving.


They found a great solution for the instrument display (left)

I give extra points for the fabulous turning radius of the car. The car can be turned with only two motions in a confined space. Great if you must maneuver in the city or in a small space.

Also, I am satisfied with the range. It is clear to me that the range is lower in cold weather, and I can take that into account.

So far so good, but under the UX magnifying glass the BMW i3 weakens significantly.


“User Experience: Highly Expandable …”

What does the BMW i3 have to do with Angela Merkel? Digital technologies and modern user experiences are for the Bavarian car manufacturer apparently #newground (#Neuland). From the point of view of the UX, the car makes no impression. The BMW i3 is, digitally, still in the Stone Age. What is installed in this “state-of-the-art” new car as “digital technology” has long since become obsolete and is no fun at all. “Groundbreaking development” (according to the manufacturer) means something different. My review:


The control display – confusing and obsolete

The menu guide seems like it is from 10 years ago or even older – menu items with submenus, where the description is not always self-explanatory. I must rethink anew where I can find something every time. Good usability looks different today.


The display – wasted opportunities

It has a 16:9 format with a fairly wide frame, not exactly the latest in state of the art. However, this format is not utilized. Instead, I have on a third of the screen a “split screen” on which I can display the time and the weather. Bizarre: If I only find the time interesting, I get an analog!! clock. But I can also show gadgets there, such as Flickr photos or personal pictures. A real must-have feature?


The infotainment and navigation system – cumbersome, little intuitive and not a bit intelligent

  • The GPS is a real mourning game. It still looks the same as in our Mini from 10 years ago. The operation is similarly cumbersome. The voice input works better, but by far, not as we are used to with Siri, Alexa and Google. Nor can it learn. That’s really a pity.


  • Of course, there is an app: BMW Connected! It is linked to my car and shows me where my car is. Also, my appointments, which the app synchronizes with my calendar, are displayed there. But if I want to drive to the next appointment and want to use my GPS in the car, I must send the address to the car via the app! In the car, I must first select the menu item ‘ConnectedDrive’ and then ‘Messages’ to receive the address and select it as the destination. If this is not an efficient and intuitive approach…


  • Why can the GPS not actually access my calendar directly? My contacts can be synchronized via Bluetooth from my smartphone. Another obstacle: the app only shows the appointments of the current day. As soon as I want to use an address for an appointment on the next day (there should be people who plan their dates, routes etc. in advance…) I must enter them manually by hand! No one needs that.


  • Why does the car not react more intelligently to my driving behavior? For example, I go to the office in nine out of ten cases and back home. And every day, I change the driving mode from “Comfort” to “Eco Pro” because I am either on the road, or in the city, where the driving properties of the more economical “Eco Pro” are completely sufficient. It would be much more comfortable if my car would anticipate this and would change to the mode I prefer.


  • ChargeNow – Pay more! Charging via BMW’s ChargeNow service is calculated on a per-minute basis, but why not in kilowatt hours? In my plan (Flex), the cost during the day (that’s when I need it, because at night I charge at home) is 7ct per minute. Recently, I had to pay 28.40 euros for 13.13 kWh, because unfortunately I could only use the domestic power socket at the charging post on Münchner Blumenstraße, since all the others were occupied. If the charging possibilities for electric vehicles are still rather thin, this price concept seems to me to be another hurdle that hinders the spread of these environmentally friendly cars. Pity!


  • And the groundhog greets every day: the voice input for phone calls!Actually, I find it very comfortable that I can trigger a call by voice input. I must press the voice input key and name the desired person I want to call, for example, “call Alexander Streit”. Then the system asks “Do you mean Alexander Streit?” If I answer “yes”, it asks me (since I have several numbers stored): “Do you want to call mobile, business or private?” Sounds sensible, BUT: if you, like me, call your husband almost daily from the car, this repetition is disturbing. It does not change the process when I say “Alexander Streit mobile call” or the other options available I always have to pray the same sermon. Why can the system not learn this? It’s frustrating. Meanwhile, I go back to the Google Language Assistant in which my announcement “Alexander Streit mobile call” is enough, and it is dialing already.



I’m really disappointed. Not from the car and the feel, but from the user experience of the digital on-board display. I decided on an innovative and sustainable driving system and, at the same time, got technology from the Stone Age.

What were you thinking BMW? Why was the opportunity not used along with the new driving system technology to also re-think the user experience of the onboard computer? (You should have taken a quick peak at Tesla …) The complete integration of my data, such as contacts, calendars and apps like Spotify and others, is not rocket science any more, and more intelligence would have been great.


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This Post has been published in Usability, User Experience.
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