In-car apps sound like a great idea but they're usually little more than gimmicks.
Now, though, GoPro and BMW have teamed up to create an in-car camera-control app that's genuinely a little bit awesome.
In fact, it makes capturing video even in extreme conditions like 150mph-plus on the German autobahn easy and safe. Well, relatively speaking.
It doesn't hurt that our first taste of the app comes courtesy of BMW's epic new M3 super saloon and thousands of miles across Europe (keep your scanners peeled for an in-depth look at the M3 on TechRadar soon).
GoPro recording in BMW's latest road weapon at 150mph? Oh, go on then.
The idea behind the app is full control of your WiFi-enabled GoPro Hero sports camera through the BMW's iDrive screen and controller, making it easier to set up and capture video in-car, clamped to the exterior, stuck to the windscreen, whatever.
And unlike a lot of in-car apps, including various social media apps, there's a real benefit to having it integrated into the car's multimedia system. You'll need a BMW featuring the ConnectedDrive interface, of course.
The basics here are simple. Already you can control GoPro's sports cameras via WiFi and a smartphone app. That's great when you're static or a passenger. But when you're driving, fiddling with a smartphone interface isn't ideal, even when the smartphone is cradled.
Wouldn't it be great if you could control the camera from the car's multimedia system?
Now you can. The proviso is that the camera actually connects to your smartphone, which in turn is connected to BMW iDrive via USB. Then you must boot up the GoPro app on the handset before it will appear in the ConnectedDrive subsection of the BMW iDrive menu.
A tiny bit of a palaver? Yes, it's a pity you must have the app in focus on your handset, but perhaps that's something to address in the second build.
Anyway, once up and running you can start and stop recording, view a preview of what the camera is capturing and change a few presets (more on that latter in a moment).
Storming the autobahn
What's really critical to understand here is the ease of use. If you are driving solo, the great thing about the app is that you can start and stop recording with a single click of the BMW iDrive controller. You don't even need to look at the screen.
That's ideal for high performance driving scenarios like track days or high speed runs on the German autobahn where you absolutely don't want to take your eyes off the road ahead.
It's also worth mentioning that the ability to start and stop recording in an instant is also important given the limited battery life and storage space of GoPros (the latter being dependent on the size of your memory card, obviously).
Finding a few flaws
So far, so good. Where we are disappointed involves those settings options. They're limited to a few pretty basic options. It would be great to have full access to all the cameras settings, perhaps through an 'advanced' submenu if BMW and GoPro's aim is to keep things simple for most users.
As above, it would also be great to be able to control the camera while doing other things on the phone like navigation. Even better would be a direct connection between the car and camera. Finally, support for multiple cameras would be super.
That said, this is still a great app that adds genuine utility over simply running the smartphone app alone. It's been a while coming, but compelling in-car apps are finally beginning to appear.
For the record, you'll need a BMW with ConnectedDrive and a GoPro with WiFi connectivity, along with an Android or Apple iOS smartphone with the latest build of the GoPro app installed.
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