Bettina Streit


BMW i3 – digital #New territory?

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

Rooted in Bavaria, my choice fell on the BMW i3 for purely local patriotic reasons. As a UX expert, I naturally took a close look at the model from the user's perspective.

"Joy of driving? Right!"

The BWM i3 was developed for sustainable mobility, which does not detract from the fun of driving. Driving with the eDRIVE electric drive is simply fun. Especially because it is so quiet. A huge difference to my previous car - a roaring Porsche 911 4S.

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

Well solved I find the instrument display (left)

I give an extra plus point for the legendary turning circle of the car. The car can be turned with only two moves in a very confined space. Great when it comes to maneuvering in the city or in narrow spaces.

I am also satisfied with the range. I know that it is lower in cold weather, and I can take that into account.

So far so good, but under the UX-loupe the BMW i3 is weakening enormously.

„User Experience: strongly expandable…“

What the BMW i3 has to do with Angela Merkel? Digital technologies and modern user experience are apparently #new territory for the Bavarian car manufacturer. From a UX perspective, the car makes no impression. Because digitally, the BMW i3 is still in the Stone Age. What is installed as "digital technology" in this "state-of-the-art" new car is long outdated and is no fun at all. "Pioneering development" (according to the manufacturer) looks different. My criticism:

The Control-Display - confusing and outdated

The menu navigation looks like 10 years ago or even older - menu items with submenu items whose names are not always self-explanatory. Every time I have to think anew where I could find something. Good usability looks different today.

The display - given away possibilities

It has a 16:9 format with a pretty wide frame, not exactly state-of-the-art. However, this format is not exploited. Instead I have a "split-screen" on one third of the screen, where I can see the time and the weather. Strange: If I only find the time interesting, I get an analog! clock. But I can also have gadgets like Flickr photos or personal pictures displayed there. A real must-have feature?

The navigation and infotainment system - cumbersome, less intuitive and not a bit intelligent

  • The Navi is a real tragedy. It still looks the same as in our Mini from 10 years ago. The handling is similarly complicated. The voice input alone works better, but not nearly as we know and are used to from Siri, Alexa and Google.

  • But of course there is an app: BMW Connected! It is linked to my car and shows me where it is currently parked. My appointments, which the app synchronizes with my calendar, are also displayed there. But: if I want to leave for my next appointment and use my navigation system in my car, I have to send the address to my car via the app! In the car, I first have to select the menu item 'ConnectedDrive' and then 'Messages' to receive the address and select it as my destination. If this is not an efficient and intuitive approach...

  • Why can't the navigation system access my calendar directly? My contacts can also be called up from my smartphone via Bluetooth. Another obstacle: the app only shows the appointments from the current day. As soon as I want to use an address for an appointment the next day (there are people who plan their appointments, routes etc. in advance...) I have to enter it manually! Nobody needs that.

  • Why does the car not react more intelligently to my driving behavior? For example, in nine out of ten cases I drive to the office and back home every day. And every day I change the driving mode from "Comfort" to "Eco Pro" because I'm either on the country road or in the city and the driving characteristics of the more economical "Eco Pro" are fully adequate for this. It would be much more comfortable if my car could anticipate this and take the hassle out of switching to the mode I prefer.

  • ChargeNow - Pay more! Charging via ChargeNow Service from BMW is calculated on a per minute basis, why not on kilowatt hours? In my tariff (Flex) the minute costs 7ct per minute during the day (and then I need the charging process because I charge at home at night). Recently I was allowed to charge 28.40 Euro for 13.13 kWh, because unfortunately I could only use the household socket at the column in Munich's Blumenstraße, because all the others were occupied. As long as the charging possibilities for electric vehicles are rather thin on the ground, this price concept seems to me to be another obstacle that stands in the way of the spread of these environmentally friendly cars. A pity!

  • And every day the marmot greets: Voice input for telephone calls!
    Actually I find it very convenient that I can initiate a call by voice input. I have to press the voice input button and enter the name of the desired conversation partner, for example "Call Alexander Streit". Then the system asks me "Do you mean Alexander Streit? "If I answer "Yes", it will ask me (because I have several numbers stored): "Do you want to call mobile, business or private? Sounds reasonable, BUT: if you, like me, call your husband from the car almost daily, this repetition is very annoying. By the way, it doesn't change anything if I say "Call Alexander Streit mobile" or choose the other options - you always have to pray the same sermon down - why can't the damn system learn that? That sucks. Meanwhile I use the Google language assistant again. My announcement "Call Alexander Streit mobile" is enough and I can start dialing.


I am really disappointed. Not of the car and the driving experience, but of the user experience of the digital on-board displays. So I decided to go for an innovative and sustainable drive system and at the same time get technology from the stone age. A real knock-out criterion for my next purchase decision.

What were you thinking, BMW? Why didn't you take the opportunity to rethink the user experience of the information and on-board systems together with the new engine? (You only had to look at Tesla a little bit...) The complete integration of my data like contacts, calendar and apps like Spotify and Co. is no longer rocket science, and more intelligence would have been nice.

Pictures from

Bettina Streit

Managing Director & Usability Engineer


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