This article gives detailed instructions on installing an upgraded Android iDrive (CID) screen with Bluetooth music and backup camera in a BMW E60 5 series vehicle with a car communication computer (CCC) based system (see description below). Even though we used a 2006 530xi touring wagon to perform this repair, this article can be applied to any BMW vehicle with the older CCC iDrive system (including the E90 3 series) with minor modifications to the repair steps.
A BMW E60 iDrive upgrade can easily add a touchscreen, Bluetooth streaming music and a backup camera to your 2004-2010 5 series car.
Probably the most significant drawback to owning an older model BMW is technology. As our world has been overtaken with streaming media and “smart” devices, the automotive industry has made it a priority to make their new vehicles as technologically advanced as possible. Unfortunately this technological gold rush has become a headache for many late model BMW owners with first generation (CCC) iDrive systems; most older vehicles lack some of the most basic features we now consider “standard equipment” like back up cameras and Bluetooth audio.
If the screen in your vehicle does not look like one of the above images, then you most likely have a more advanced CID based system and you will not be able to use the iDrive upgrade in this article.
For BMW owners with older central information displays (CID), more commonly known as iDrive screens, the options to upgrade to a more technically advanced system have been limited. Earlier Android replacement displays were slow and sluggish and prone to overheating and crashing. But advancements in processor and operating system technology has made replacement units very reliable. Upgrading your BMWs iDrive is now an affordable option that can add all of the “bells and whistles” you would expect in a newer vehicle.
The Android BMW E60 iDrive upgrade screen
Luckily there is a very simple and affordable option for those BMW E60 owners that are interested in upgrading their displays so they can stream music and add a backup camera to their vehicle – the Android iDrive screen. The Android iDrive screen is based on the Android operating system (OS) commonly found in smart phones like the Samsung Galaxy. In fact those that have Android OS phones will find many similarities between the two.
The Android BMW iDrive upgrade screen can do many advanced functions including navigation, wireless internet connection, Bluetooth calling and real time vehicle data. We could write dozens of pages on every function an upgraded Android iDrive screen can do…but we are going to keep it simple and review the most popular; Bluetooth music streaming, backup camera, the user interface (UX) and using Apple Carplay/Android Auto. For a list of other available functions of an Android iDrive screen, please click here.
Bluetooth music streaming
Bluetooth music streaming is without any doubt the number one requested upgrade that BMW owners with older iDrive screens are looking for. Plugging your cell phone into a cumbersome auxiliary jack and trying to play music while driving is not only a pain in the rear…but its also extremely dangerous (and borderline illegal). Streaming music wirelessly from your phone to your vehicle’s sound system and being able to control it from the iDrive screen or steering wheel controls is the safest method.
Installing an upgraded Android iDrive screen in your BMW will allow you to safely stream music (and video) from any Bluetooth device, and the sound quality is excellent. We found setting up the Bluetooth connection to our iPhone 12 to be simple, and we were able to use both the iDrive controller as well as the steering wheel controls to toggle through our Spotify and iTunes playlists.
Backup cameras have quietly become standard equipment on all vehicle’s being produced today. In fact the chance of getting into an accident (or God forbid hitting someone) is exponentially higher in vehicles that do not have any type of rear camera system. Why? Because most drivers and pedestrians assume that you have a backup camera in your car and that you see them when you are backing out of a parking space.
The backup camera screen on the Android iDrive screen is fantastic…in fact it exceeded our expectations. It is crystal clear and even comes with dynamic distance markers that “bend” when the car is being turned. It also includes a trigger wire that automatically turns on the backup screen when the vehicle is put into reverse.
Please see our article on wiring a backup camera to your BMW for more information on installation.
User Interface (UX)
The user interface, also commonly called the UX, is a fancy term that simply refers to the design and layout of the information on the screen and the degree of difficulty of interacting with it. In a nutshell, users want to know if the screen is easy to navigate and use.
The Android iDrive screen is very well designed…it does not look like a “cheap” aftermarket unit that we just stuck in the car. We found the layout of the Android iDrive upgrade screen to be logical and fairly easy to use after a day or so of playing with it; it is basically like using an Android phone. The touchscreen is extremely responsive, and the Snapdragon 8 core processor that powers the operating system is extremely fast. The vehicle’s iDrive controller works great with the Android iDrive upgrade screen…we were extremely happy with its integration. We were able to easily access every screen on the display by just using the iDrive controller and the steering wheel. You can easily access the original factory iDrive screen at anytime if you want to return to the vehicle’s original functionality.
Android Auto and Apple Carplay
First of all, there is a lot of confusion as to what Android Auto and Apple Carplay are and whether the BMW E60 Android iDrive upgrade screen can support them. Android Auto and Apple Carplay have become very popular in new vehicles; they allow you to control the essential functions of your Android or Apple phone through the infotainment screen. Many drivers like this functionality since they can easily (and more safely) send and receive text messaging via voice commands, make phone calls, access their music and use their navigation software (like google maps) without looking at their phone. Android Auto and Apple Carplay allow you to display and control your phone directly within the iDrive screen. If you are using Android Auto or Apple Carplay, you DO NOT need to install an external GPS navigation antennae or receiver. You can easily access your map apps on the iDrive screen.
Please see Section 4 below for more information on connecting Android Auto or Apple Carplay to your iDrive screen.
The confusion among users is how this connection is actually made. Essentially there are two ways…either a direct connection via a USB cable (see Section 4 in the repair steps below) or wirelessly via a “hotspot” internet connection created on your phone. You cannot connect Android Auto or Apple Carplay solely using Bluetooth…you must also have an internet connection like a hotspot. If you do not have an internet connection then you must connect directly via a USB cable.
We found connecting Android Auto and Apple Carplay to the upgraded Android iDrive screen to be confusing. We could not get the Apple Carplay to display correctly using the wireless hotspot connection, and using the USB cable requires an aftermarket “dongle” which is challenging to set up. We strongly recommend that if you are going to use Android Auto or Apple Carplay with this unit, that you use the direct USB connection method discussed below in Section 4 and forget about wireless.
Our review of the Android iDrive screen after testing
We are very pleased with the updated Android iDrive screen in our 2006 BMW 530xi. It is very well designed, and blends in well with the interior of the vehicle without looking like a cheap aftermarket addition. The Bluetooth sound quality is excellent, and the backup camera exceeded our expectations. The Android 10.0 operating system is fast and the touchscreen very responsive. The Android screen works great with the existing iDrive controller and steering wheel buttons, and installs very easily. If you are looking for an attractive, affordable and simple to install solution that allows you to easily stream music and add a backup camera to your 2004-2010 5 series, then we highly recommend the Android iDrive screen.
- The new Android 10.0 operating system with Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 core 4GB RAM processor is very fast and works seamlessly. We were very pleased with its overall functionality.
- Installation is simple. The Android screen comes with a wiring harness that simply plugs into the back of the old head unit. All of the vehicle’s original iDrive functionality remains intact (you can easily access the original factory iDrive screen).
- The sound quality is excellent when streaming music from a handheld device like an iPhone or Android phone.
- The backup camera display is fabulous and exceeded our expectations. It includes dynamic distance markers that actually move with the steering wheel (they can be toggled off if desired). The backup camera display works perfectly when the “trigger” wire is connected (see our discussion below on backup cameras).
- The Android iDrive screen does support your BMW’s factory XM satellite radio with a very easy modification discussed in the steps below.
- Even though the Android iDrive has a touch screen (which you will need for some functions), you can pretty much access everything with the iDrive controller.
- The factory iDrive controller is extremely responsive with the Android screen and all of the steering wheel controls work perfectly.
- The Android unit does support the vehicle’s factory iDrive display. You do not lose any of the vehicle’s original functionality with the Android unit.
- Even though the Android unit supports the factory iDrive display, if you are switching over from the smaller 6.5″ screen (like we did) the display will be distorted since it will be “stretched” to fit the larger 8.8″ screen. We don’t feel it is a big deal, but it certainly should be known prior to purchasing.
- The newer Android iDrive user interface (UX) is logical in design, but has much smaller font sizes than the factory screen. If you wear glasses or have difficulty seeing at a distance, the new Android iDrive screen will take a little time to get used too.
- The Android iDrive uses an LED screen that is beautiful when viewed with the naked eye, but cannot be seen with polarized sunglasses (especially from the driver’s seat). It is also difficult to see in bright sunlight due to the reflection off of the touchscreen. Some manufacturers offer a “non glare” screen, but we did not test one for this article. The good news is this situation can be easily cured by adding a non-glare computer monitor protection screen to the front of the display. Please see Section 3 in the repair steps below on how to cure this issue.
- Setting up Android Auto and Apple Carplay was frustrating. We could not get Apple Carplay to work correctly wirelessly, and setting up the USB connection was challenging. The good news is once we figured it out it worked great. If you are planning on buying this unit specifically so you can use Android Auto or Apple Carplay, we suggest you purchase a dongle and connect your phone directly via the USB cable. Please see Section 4 below on detailed instructions on connecting Android Auto and Apple Carplay via the USB cable.
- An ongoing concern among many Android iDrive customers is the lack of instructions or any documentation on how to install the unit. We will be completely honest and transparent here – most (if not all) of these units are being manufactured “overseas” and are being drop shipped from US resellers who do not put any type of instructions in the boxes. In fact…ours came with absolutely no documentation what-so-ever.. The good news is the Android screen is “plug and play”…so you don’t need an electrical engineering degree to install it. But that being said…it is still very annoying and created a much longer installation time since we had to figure it out ourselves.
Installing a BMW iDrive upgraded screen
The good news is installing an upgraded Android iDrive screen into your 2004-2010 BMW 5 series is a relatively easy process. Most aftermarket Android screens are “plug and play” and come with a wiring harness that plugs into the back of your factory head unit. We give you detailed step by step instructions below on how to install an 8.8″ upgraded Android iDrive in a BMW E60 5 series vehicle. These instructions can be used in any BMW with the older CCC screen with minor modifications to the steps.
It is important to note that you must have an active auxiliary (AUX) port on your vehicle’s head unit. We know this may seem confusing, but in reality you are not just replacing the screen but are also adding a secondary device to the sound system. The only way to make the Android iDrive “plug and play” while retaining your vehicle’s factory system is to use the AUX port. Your vehicle’s head unit must have a programmed and activated AUX port for the Android iDrive screen to operate. To verify your BMW E60’s AUX port is active, navigate your iDrive to the Entertainment menu. If “AUX” is a highlighted option that can be selected at the top of the menu then it is active (see image below). If it is not highlighted (or is not present at all), then you will have to get your vehicle programmed prior to completing this installation. Please see our section below “Activating Your iDrive’s AUX port” for more information.
1. BMW E60 iDrive Upgrade Android Screen (required) – The following Android iDrive screen is the exact same one we used for this article. We strongly suggest you purchase the anti-glare film to cover the screen with…it will make it easier to view in direct sunlight or with polarized sunglasses on (see Section 5 below for installing the anti-glare film).
2. Android Auto/Apple Carplay Dongle (optional) – If you are planning on using Android Auto or Apple Carplay with your Android iDrive screen, we recommend only doing it through a direct connection via the USB cables (wireless hotspot connections don’t work well with this screen). You will need a dongle in order for the iDrive screen to integrate with your phone. The following dongle is the same one we used in making this article.
In order to perform a BMW E60 iDrive upgrade, the existing screen must be removed. The head unit must also be removed from the dashboard so a new wiring harness can be attached to it that integrates with the replacement Android screen. Use patience and care when removing the dashboard trim in your BMW E60 5 series…plastic becomes brittle as it ages and the chances of breaking a part increases dramatically if it is forcefully removed.
- The iDrive screen is simply anchored inside the dashboard by two T10 torx screws. Use a torx bit to remove the two screws then grasp the iDrive screen and tilt it forward.
- Grasp the iDrive screen and carefully remove it from the dashboard.
- Unplug the two electrical connections on the back of the screen. It helps to use a small flat blade screwdriver as shown below.
- Next, the dashboard and center console trim will need to be removed so the head unit can be accessed. Start by using a plastic trim removal tool to loosen the outside corner of the dashboard trim on the passenger side of the vehicle. We like to “twist” the plastic trim removal tool (instead of prying it) to pop the trim loose from the dashboard as shown below.
- Be very careful as you slowly pull the trim away from the dashboard with your hands…it is a very expensive piece and you don’t want to crack it. If you break any of the dashboard trim clips during removal, you can order more by clicking here. If you break the metal trim clamp you can reorder one by clicking here.
- Reach behind the dashboard trim and push the door lock switch out. Unplug the switch and remove it from the trim.
- Grasp the shifter handle and pull up until it releases. DO NOT TWIST IT. It may take two hands to get it to release, but it will come free.
- Use a plastic trim removal tool to remove the shifter trim and leather shifter boot from the center console. Unplug the back of the shifter trim and remove from the vehicle.
- Remove the ashtray from the center console.
- Use a T20 torx bit to remove the two screws anchoring the center console trim.
- Using a plastic trim removal tool, remove the iDrive controller knob.
- Carefully pry up the side of the center console trim until it releases from its trim clips. We like to use a twisting motion with the trim removal tool to pop it loose as shown below.
- Pull the center console trim loose with your hands.
- Reach under the trim and remove the iDrive menu button. Disconnect it and remove it from the vehicle.
- Turn on the ignition and put the shifter in the drive position. This will give you enough room to remove the center console trim. Remove the center console trim from the vehicle.
- Use a phillips screwdriver to remove the two screws mounting the center dash trim to the dashboard. Use a plastic trim removal tool to carefully pry the center dash trim loose.
- Pull the center dashboard trim down until the back of the HVAC controller can be accessed. Unplug the three electronic connections behind the HVAC controller and remove the center dashboard trim from the vehicle.
- Remove the two screws anchoring the sound system head unit to the dashboard. Grasp the head unit and pull it free from the dashboard.
- Locate the main wiring harness and the iDrive cable on the back of the head unit.
- Unplug the iDrive cable.
- Unplug the main wiring harness by lifting its locking arm and pulling the connection free.
Installing the new BMW E60 iDrive upgrade wiring harness is very simple…it is essentially “plug and play”. The old head unit wiring harness plugs into the new adapter allowing all of the original iDrive functionality to display on the new screen. It also allows the new upgraded Android screen to be managed by the iDrive controller knob. If you have an existing XM Satellite Radio connection it can be easily transferred over to the new wiring harness (see step 3 below). Also note that if you already have Bluetooth telephone installed in your BMW E60 5 series, then you do not need any of the external speakers or microphones that were shipped with the new Android unit.
- Before connecting the new wiring harness to the head unit, it will need to be routed behind the dashboard to the new Android iDrive display. In order to do this, the dashboard mounting bracket will need to be loosened so the wiring harness can be slipped behind it. Use a phillips head screwdriver to remove the six screws anchoring the dashboard mounting bracket and gently tilt it forward.
- Carefully route the new Android iDrive wiring harness behind the bracket. Reinstall the dashboard bracket when you are finished.
- ***If you have an existing XM satellite radio, then you will need to complete this step. If you don’t proceed to step 4. Locate the two fiber optic cables in the head unit’s wiring harness that control the satellite radio module. These two fiber optic cables must be moved to the new wiring harness – this is simply done by using a metal pick as shown below to release the fiber optic cables and unplugging them from the factory harness. Plug the cables into the exact same position in the new wiring harness until they snap into place (see images below).
- Line up the new and old wiring harnesses as shown below and plug them together. Make sure the plastic locking bracket is secure.
- Plug the new Android iDrive wiring harness into the back of the head unit.
- If your new Android iDrive wiring harness came with a mini-speaker already installed, you can disconnect it. You do not need the mini speaker when installing an Android iDrive screen into a BMW E60 5 series with Bluetooth phone (it is already wired for sound).
- Plug the audio wire in the new wiring harness together and wrap with electrical tape to keep it from pulling loose during the installation.
- Carefully reinstall the head unit back into the dash board and secure it with its two mounting screws. Remember…space is limited with all of the new wiring. Take you time and DO NOT force the head unit back in. You may have to tuck some of the wiring in to make enough room.
The new Android iDrive screen simply fits into the existing opening in the dashboard. Please note that space behind the new screen is tight. The new wiring harnesses take up a lot of room, so make sure they are carefully tucked out of the way when installing the new screen.
- Plug the main media input/output harness into the back of the new iDrive display. Make sure it is securely connected.
- Plug the wiring harnesses in from the head unit. Make sure they are securely connected or your iDrive could lose power when the vehicle hits a bump.
- We strongly recommend installing the USB cables to the Android iDrive screen. The USB cables are the easiest method of transferring data to your screen’s hard-drive from an external storage device and the best method of connecting Android Auto or Apple Carplay to your screen. You will want to route them to a location that can be easily accessed at all times – we suggest putting them in the glove box. Please Section 4 below for more information on using the USB cables for transferring data.
- If you are adding a back up camera, connect the two RCA jacks and secure them with electrical tape so they do not disconnect during installation. If you are using a trigger wire for you backup camera (which we strongly recommend you do), solder and heat shrink it to the wiring harness. The wiring harness trigger wire is sometimes called the “camera detection” wire and is usually pink.
- If you are adding any other external video, sound, microphone, GPS/navigation or antennae components, you can do that now. We do not cover adding any other external devices other than a backup camera in this article.
- Slowly, carefully and methodically install the new iDrive screen into the dashboard. Make sure to tuck all of the wiring neatly out of the way so they do not get pinched. DO NOT screw the iDrive screen into place yet.
- Before reinstalling all of the trim, start the vehicle and test the new screen. If you have installed a new backup camera, put the vehicle in reverse to make sure it appears. If there are any issues, turn the vehicle off and check all of your connections. The most frequent issue is the main wiring harness is not properly installed into the back of the new Android iDrive screen.
- If the new BMW E60 iDrive upgrade screen is operating correctly, reinstall all of the trim by following Section 1 steps 1-17 in reverse.
The two USB cables that were installed in Section 3 above are the best methods of transferring data between your iDrive display and peripheral devices. Any type of device can connect to your iDrive screen for data transfer as long as it supports USB data transfer including: laptop computers, phones, portable hard-drives, SD cards and memory sticks. The Android iDrive screen comes with file transfer software built in, so it is very easy to upload music, movies, photos and even apps to your iDrive screen via the USB cables.
A. Using the USB cable with an external storage device
Transferring data from an external storage device like a computer or memory stick to the iDrive screen is very simple. The Android iDrive display comes with a built in file manager that allows you to quickly upload any data from any external device, much like you would on a computer. Simply connect the external device to the USB cable, start the file manager app, and upload the data.
B. Using the USB cable for Android Auto or Apple Carplay
As discussed earlier in this article, the best way to use Android Auto or Apple Carplay with your BMW upgraded iDrive screen is via a direct connection with the USB cable. Unfortunately it is not as simple as plug and play…you will need to purchase a “dongle” which allows the iDrive screen to communicate with your phone.
What is a dongle? It is a silly (and confusing) term for an adapter that allows certain external devices to operate through a USB port. In our case, a dongle will need to be attached to one of the USB cables – this will allow us to connect our phone directly to the iDrive so we can use Android Auto or Apple Carplay.
Need an Apple Carplay/Android Auto dongle? Click here to purchase the same one we used for this article.
Installing the dongle is not simple. You have to first install the dongle’s app so the Android screen can communicate with your phone. We found the easiest way to do this was to copy the files on a thumb drive and manually upload them (see section A above). Please see the documentation that comes with your dongle for more information on how to install its app on your Android iDrive display.
Apple Carplay is an operating system made specifically for automobiles. It allows the user to access and control the most important functions of their iPhone including music, phone calls, messaging and maps on their iDrive screen and by using voice commands. We were very pleased with Apple Carplay when using the USB dongle. In fact, it exceeded our expectations. The screen resolution was beautiful, and we could easily send and receive text messages by just talking to Siri on the iDrive screen. It installed very easily…in fact it was virtually plug and play. As soon as the dongle recognized the iPhone was connected, it automatically launched Apple Carplay. As discussed at the beginning of this article, there is absolutely no reason to connect an external GPS navigation receiver if you are using Apple Carplay. The maps are excellent and worked flawlessly. If you have an iPhone, we strongly urge you to try out Apple Carplay on the upgraded Android screen. Once you do, you will be hooked on it.
Android Auto, much like Apple Carplay, allows you to display and control much of your phone’s functionality through the iDrive screen. Unlike Apple Carplay (which is basically plug and play) Android Auto requires its app to be installed on the phone first before connecting to the iDrive display. We were not as impressed with Android Auto on the new upgraded iDrive display. The screen resolution was average compared to the iPhone, and we found its user interface (UX) to be inferior to Carplay. That being said, it did allow easy access to our music library, Google maps and even Spotify. Once again, you do not need to add an external GPS receiver for navigation when using Android Auto.
Even though there are some units being offered that claim to have an anti-glare display, most Android iDrive LED screens on the market are very difficult to see in sunlight or with polarized sunglasses. As discussed earlier in this article, this problem can be easily fixed by adding an anti-glare computer screen protective film to the front of the iDrive display. It is very simple to apply, can be removed quickly if necessary, and works great with the touchscreen. Adding anti-glare film to the Android display is an easy and inexpensive solution.
Want to purchase the same anti-glare film we used for this article? Click here to order.
- Measure the screen to get its exact dimensions.
- Use a pair of scissors to cut out a piece of anti-glare screen protector.
- Use the enclosed dust removal sticker and cleaning cloth to remove any dirt and smudges from the new Android display.
- Peel off both sides of the anti-glare film and stick it on the Android display.
- Use a credit card or the enclosed plastic scraper to push any air bubbles out of the film.