i-Remote app: desiged by amateurs

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Well-known member
Apr 29, 2014
London, UK
I thought it might be helpful to potential buyers to see what you get with the i-Remote app if like me you assumed it would join-up the ownership experience in a meaningful way. Unfortunately it's very poorly designed - staggeringly so in fact - almost as if they accepted the first effort of a project for a first year tech student at the Munich University. It certainly doesn't look as if it's been usability tested by anyone who knows what they're doing.

My observations below are from the Android app, version 1.3(1317-PROD_ECE). I've no idea if the iPhone app is as bad.

First up, We’re forced to enter a PIN (no option to disable it). Apparently we’re not trusted to either have a security lock on our phones or take the risk ourselves that someone with access to our phones could get open the app and…do…well not much of any consequence as it turns out. Oh and just to be doubly sure, most times you have to enter it twice.


We’re presented with a screen apparently designed by somebody who thinks the ‘who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire’ look is cool. Aesthetics aside, there are already many obviously usability issues: low contrast blue on blue text and icons; meaningless waste of real estate at the top, with the label ‘status’ 4x larger than the status information under it; no obvious indication of what is clickable and what the consequences of doing so are…We can see already this app is amateur hour effort, but it gets much worse.

Arguably, knowing the currently (estimated) range is the most valuable bit of information – but it’s useless if it’s not up to date. The first picture shows the information is more than 7 hours out of date. That would be less problematic if you could just tap something to force the app to get up-to-date information…but you can’t. In fact the only way to force the app to communicate with the car is flashing the headlights or unlocking the doors, but even that doesn’t necessarily update the state of charge information.

Tapping ‘Status’ does nothing. The plug symbol next to the range doesn’t indicate if the car is plugged in – another (small) icon appears next to the rear wheel in the picture. Tapping on it when it’s red shows ‘Charging error’ but doesn’t tell you what the error is or what you can do about it.


There’s much written elsewhere about how dubious we should be about the accuracy of the range estimate, but this app doesn’t make it any better. According to the app my full charge range varied by 46% from day to the next (same outside temperature).

While we’re on temperature, one of the things my wife wanted to do is get the car’s heating going before getting inside it. We can do that by tapping the fan icon at the bottom. Trouble is we can’t change our mind. So when I took my son to his sports match, got the heating going ready for departure only to find there was extra time in the game, all I succeeded in doing was reducing my range for the way home.


Tapping on the range estimate does nothing. So does tapping the timer. Quite what ‘Until…’ the day means under the timer is not clear. I suspect some poor translation from German. It actually means that’s when it’s next set to be preconditioned. To get to that we have to tap the small clock icon [not the large timer information].

Here we get to set the 3 times that we can schedule charging and precondition. Those limitations are well discussed elsewhere. What’s worth looking at here is again the poor usability. First, it’s impossible to tell it to say, be ready in a specified time from now (either charging or preconditioning) – we have to program a specific time. We have to click on one of the entries, scroll to set the time and tap ‘Every…’ day to select which day(s) it applies to. It’s not obvious what to do if we want to be a one off, rather than each week. Tapping repeat doesn’t toggle to once. In fact to get it to happen just once we have to tap ‘Every <day>’ and then untick all the days (including today). (Yes, really, it’s hard to imagine how they could have made it less intuitive.)


At the bottom we can toggle if we want the battery preconditioned. There’s no way to say if we want the cabin temperature pre-set or not, let alone to what temperature.

To make sure the settings stick we have to tap the tick symbol in the top right. That takes us back to the large time screen. Tapping that again shows the sending to vehicle information [at the top this time, not at the bottom where it was before]. Alarmingly, underneath, it has un-ticked all the times previously set including the one we just set, leading us to assume temporarily that it is un-setting the previously set times while setting the new one. After the usual delay, we get a message saying the charging has been performed [rather than that the information has been sent to the car]!


Perhaps the next most useful function [in theory] is to send a destination to the car’s sat nav. To get to this we have to scroll right from the car screen to ‘Mobility’ (why ‘mobility’ is anyone’s guess, since it is to do with addresses, not being mobile).

Tapping on the small flag icon in the big circle, we get to choose between last searches, saved ‘favourites’ and destinations that have been previously set. Helpfully it shows whether they’re in range. Unhelpfully it doesn’t let us set one as the new destination. To do that we have to tap on it, opening a screen showing the same information again in most of the screen with the options now to add to favourites or to send to the car. But not the car’s list of destinations… because it’s already there - making the function fairly useless. Instead to an email message that you have to open several menu options deep.


So, while sending a previous destination is in practice pretty useless, the idea of sending a new destination should be more helpful.

If it’s an address from our phone contacts we could try clicking the person icon at the top right, then select a contact from our list. For about half the contacts I tried it couldn’t successfully read the address and said, incorrectly ‘No address is stored for this contact’. I couldn’t work out what it didn’t like about the addresses. When it can find an address, it forces us to enter the PIN again, before displaying it.

It display’s it using the German format (building number after the Street name), and although we can send it to the vehicle [as a message], the only way we can add it to ‘favourites’ is to get in the car, accept it as a destination, then pull it up in the Destinations list and then tap Add to Favourites


For addresses we don’t already know, we have to tap on the small unintelligible icon underneath the ‘Mobility’ banner. This opens a version of Google maps but takes a bit longer to appear as it loads up icons from the ChargeNow network that slowly obliterate the view of the map. If we zoom out, these icons are [very slowly] replaced by icons with tiny numbers in them indicating multiple charge points. We turn these off by deselecting them from the list that appears if we tap on the layers icon next at the top.

The first two translucent (why?) icons overlaid on map pinpoint your location, the car’s [last known] location. The next one zooms the map out to show the range boundaries on comfort and eco settings…or is it eco and ecoplus? There’s no way of telling.

The last icon with road junctions symbols toggles satellite vs map view (again, strange choice of symbol).


To enter a destination, we have to search for it, by tapping the magnifying glass at the top. When we start entering characters, a list appears of likely matches – not an open Google search quick suggestion, but a list of charging points. If we tap on an item on the list, it doesn’t select that as a destination, as we might expect, it merely centres the map on it, and leaves the first characters you typed in the box. If we manage to find the icon amidst the others, tapping on it produces a partial address at the bottom, uselessly and, nominally, pricing and range information – but as you can see both are often useless.


Tapping on it the address doesn’t make the charging information any more readable but brings up an address under the heading ‘Contact’ (which doesn’t mean you can contact them), and three new icons. The star toggles empty to solid but gives no indication of what it does (adds to favourites, maybe?). Tapping the road junction icon takes us to not to driving directions but public transport options or on foot, depending on the new 3d-style of toggle button at the top. Tapping the last icon sends the address to the car (as a message).

All in all, pretty cumbersome. Actually, useless, compared to simply sending it direct from Google Maps in a browser or on your phone (with the right add-in installed), with the added benefit [/essential feature] of being able to search any address quickly – not just charging stations.


And all that’s when it’s actually ‘working’. My experience [in central London] is often of greyed-out/unavailable options, even with the car parked outside, and when the car’s SIM card is in contact (it will for some reason allow me to un/lock the doors but not use the mobility functions). As you can see in the picture on the left, the there is a data (wifi) connection, so my assumption is, it must be the GPS sensor in the car that had lost its connection.


The last screen (scrolling to the left from the screen with the car picture), is labelled ‘Efficiency’, and has some meaningless pattern in the picture below. Tapping the book icon brings up a contents page of eco driving tips which provide nothing that the average buyer wouldn’t have already been bombarded with elsewhere (brochure, website, manuals, aftersales promo book, etc.)


Tapping ‘CO2’ brings up a gimmick number claiming to be the amount of carbon dioxide ‘saved’ by having used your i3 instead of…well that’s just it – it depends how we might have otherwise travelled, in which type of car, and presumably not net of the carbon expended in the manufacture, etc, etc. Pretty Meaningless.

Tapping the histogram icon produces a quadrant with statistics showing electricity consumption for the last trip at the top and for all trips at the bottom relative to the ‘community’ – (in your country/everywhere? Again pretty meaningless.). Quite why the diameter symbol is used on the numbers below (is it supposed to lend a 'scientific' feel?) or why the community is brighter than ours is again only known by the [amateur/hobbyist?] designer.


The only other thing to tap is the cog at the top, bringing up ‘Settings’. ‘Change PIN’ does what it implies, although when we tap on it we’re asked for a PIN, but it’s not clear whether it wants the existing or the new PIN. Entering a new PIN throws up an error message that doesn’t make sense (‘…log out to select a new PIN’).


‘Your dealer’ merely shows the address, and allows you to send it to the vehicle. Pretty useless. Unless you need to go back and buy another car? / can’t remember where you bought it? ‘About’ gives a software version number (useless). ‘Imprint’ must be a bad translation of something German, and brings up contact details and BMW in Germany (useless). I thought Feedback might have been an in-app issue reporting tool, with screenshots, but no, it merely launches an email to [email protected]. (useless). Tapping BMW Routes turns it from on to off. No indication of what it is. Google takes me to a page that explains what it is, but despite enabling it, it hasn’t done anything for me. (useless)


Tapping ‘Units’ doesn’t allow us to specify which units we want, but instead offers Metric, English or Japanese. What if we want miles and kg? In fact selecting English still uses the metric kWh…poor.

‘Community’ is where we op in/out of sharing driving statistics, with…well it’s not quite clear. The message shows interesting use of the passive tense, which doesn’t indicate all the parties to whom our data could be shared.

Underneath it says (the wrong way round) ‘Reset statistics’ and a message saying what will happen if you do, but it’s not obvious whether this happens as soon as you tap somewhere (where?) or in fact if it happens when you turn off/on the toggle button above it.

I’ve no idea what ‘Log out’, at the bottom actually logs you out of – the app? The community? Something else?


Tapping on the car icon, or the car picture, mileage in the [overly] large area. Can’t think why we’d want to know that [prominently] on the app. Underneath it shows if anything is open, but tapping on them does nothing. You have to scroll past the [useless] service inspection date to get to ‘Remote control’


‘Remote control’ should be one of the most useful features. In fact it only lets us unlock and lock the doors or flash the lights.

But it takes so long to send the command first to BMW’s servers and then from servers to the car that offers no value at all in say unlocking the car on your way to it or looking for your car in a car park. The proud message that it flashed the lights ‘successfully’ is laughable...and ultimately useless.

In practice it only works to lock the doors if you forgot. But even then, the time delay makes the status in ‘Vehicle information’ screen out of sync, with the remote control section (useless). It doesn’t help that the locked / unlocked ‘buttons’ on the remote control page are not greyed-out/disabled depending on the status.


In the modern parlance, my kids would call this this app "a FAIL", since it is so poorly designed. Obviously many things have poor functionality and usability that still market well, but with only 110 other downloads from the Android Play store, this couldn't even mask it's shabby design behind a claim of popularity. I do hope BMW invests in some more qualified designers for the next iteration, but based on the my experience with the poorly trained, part-time specialist services and features for i-customers, that we've had so far, I'm not getting my hopes up.
Thanks for such an informative post, I have the Apple version and it is no better.

I am turning into a broken record, but this is another instance of BMW giving us a half-baked idea that was just not thought through. I suppose we are expected to be happy the app exists at all and never mind about the actual functionality. Some aspects of this car seem like afterthoughts that were just thrown together at the last minute to meet a deadline while others are absolutely brilliant.
The trouble is sometimes,
- marketing get to add features into the car they think would be of benefit to consumers,
- engineers think they can add features to the car that would be of benefit to consumers,
- app guys think they could implement features that the engineers can build into the car that would be of benefit to consumers.

So it goes in the brochures, the manuals, the app and then they get to integration testing and go – well it works, sort of.

I work in software development… 12 years doing development and support and the last 9 in testing… The way software developments goes it they’ll have test cases to execute tests for the following features…

Test : Unlock and lock windows remotely
1 Using the mobile app a user logs in using their pin.
2 Navigate to the window opening screen.
3 User select to open or close the window.
4Window is closed or opened.

Test Status: Passed.

Test: Precondition the car remotely
1 User logs in and navigates to the schedule entry screen
2 User enters a time they want the car to pre condition.
3 User sends schedule to the car.
4 Car accepts the schedule.
5 At the predefined time the car pre conditions.

Test Status : Passed.

Project manager will say - Have we signed off the functional test cases?
Test lead – yes.

What about the non functional usability tests?

A bad test lead will say “er what are those”?

Or alternatively… Good test lead.. “Yes – and there’s 146 usability defects”.
PM Says, “are they all marked as low priority as they are ‘only’ usability issues”.
Test lead. “Yep”.
PM… “Please mark them as candidates for fixes in Release 2.0 as we need to get the release out by the end of September".

PM “What about language internationalisation tests?”
Test lead (german) – “Ja, Die Worte sind nicht mehr Deutsche”. – translation – “Yes, the words are no longer German”.

Bad QA leads to inferior apps. Hopefully the QA on the car itself was a bit better. I think the trouble is – with only currently 20,000 potential users, it’s quite hard to justify a big spend. Maybe only 2 or 3 people working on it. 1 for the app, 1 for the comms to the “Connected service” and 1 for the connected service to car integration. Although I think some of the features are cross model and not specific to the i3 – so there may be a large team of people working on it, but the sales of the 3 and 5 series etc means bugs in their implementations are getting higher priority than the i3.

Either way - it's not a good start. Hopefully they are committed to spending x% of new car sales on app maintenance!
Having retired from Apple as a software engineer, I agree wholeheartedly with the critiques of the iRemote app. As was stated, the iOS version is no better than the Android version.

I would extend this criticism to iDrive as well. Using iDrive reminds me of using an old feature phone scrolling through menu items looking for a desired functionality, frequently in vain. iDrive, like iRemote, needs a complete redesign by a user interface expert and a localization expert in each of their supported languages to eliminate the poor translations from German that impede understanding.
I can only heartily endorse the OP's observations. I'm using the Android version, too, and mine doesn't even let me add a new destination! The Apple version is only slightly less awful. :shock:
And while we're on it, the preconditioning is abysmal too. If you select preconditioning (the fan symbol), a message flashes up briefly to say it's been sent, and then reverts to the screen asking you to hit the button to start it. :? There is no way to show that it's been done, and no way to switch it off again. :x
The App is horrendously BAD, and even worse than the clunky in-car controls, which are definitely the WORST feature of the car. Grrrrr...
Many thanks for these insights. I develop software myself and get annoyed with poor UX like this. Looks like I'll be in for a treat. One major drawback appears to be that most commands are sent using data signal or home broadband to BMW servers and then to the car (and back).

I also understand now why the salesman was making excuses for not letting me use the iRemote app. "My colleague has the car locked to his phone and it can't be transferred", he said. :lol:
FWIW, you can log in and run the app on multiple devices (I have it on my tablet and my phone). And, it really doesn't matter whose phone you use. Once you enter your e-mail address and password, the app will talk to your car, regardless of whose device it is running on.

The app does have a bunch of deficiencies and even lacks a simple help to describe some of the options.
Great post. ABSOLUTELY need text notifications, especially "forgot to plug in", charging fault, unplugged prior to reaching full, charge finished etc...

Need to be able to set different value charging windows for different days as well as multiple charging windows in a given day.

The ability to “charge now” from the remote app.

The ability to recognize charging stations such that it will value charge at home but charge immediately at other stations.
jadnashuanh said:
FWIW, you can log in and run the app on multiple devices (I have it on my tablet and my phone). And, it really doesn't matter whose phone you use. Once you enter your e-mail address and password, the app will talk to your car, regardless of whose device it is running on.

Thanks for clarifying this! :)
Hi guys,

while agreeing with any comments about the half-finishedness of the (iPhone) app, I would also like to express my 'happiness' (in lack of a better word) with what is working. As I am with the rest of the clunky and opaque IT in and around the car (iDrive, Nav, Connecteddrive, BMWRoutes etc.) It could be improved a lot, but for a car company, it isn't a half bad attempt ;)

Cheers ! Steven

PS: btw: my app is popping up messages on my iPhone/iPad when the charge is criticaly low or the chargesession is interrupted. Could this be a euro only thing?
Stevei3 said:
Hi guys,

while agreeing with any comments about the half-finishedness of the (iPhone) app, I would also like to express my 'happiness' (in lack of a better word) with what is working. As I am with the rest of the clunky and opaque IT in and around the car (iDrive, Nav, Connecteddrive, BMWRoutes etc.) It could be improved a lot, but for a car company, it isn't a half bad attempt ;)

Cheers ! Steven

PS: btw: my app is popping up messages on my iPhone/iPad when the charge is criticaly low or the chargesession is interrupted. Could this be a euro only thing?

I agree with you Steven, the app is not all that bad, you can set multiple charging scenarios or at least different configurations for up to 3 days I believe and if my charge is low I get an email from the car and like you say if the charge is interrupted I get an email for that too. I live in the US and have a US Rex that was built in July of this year.
NikNik said:
Great post. ABSOLUTELY need text notifications, especially "forgot to plug in", charging fault, unplugged prior to reaching full, charge finished etc...
From my past experience owning a Leaf those text messages get old really, really fast. The only one I'd like to have is 'forgot to plug in' one, but I got that sorted out differently.

NikNik said:
The ability to “charge now” from the remote app.

NikNik said:
The ability to recognize charging stations such that it will value charge at home but charge immediately at other stations.
websterize said:
Tomasz said:
NikNik said:
The only one I'd like to have is 'forgot to plug in' one, but I got that sorted out differently.
Pray tell.

I am not sure exactly sure at what SOC it works, but the i3 sends you an email if your SOC is real low. I get them I believe once my SOC drops below 20%, it might be 25% even but I am sure as I got one yesterday for 17%.

I know it's not exactly a reminder to plug in no matter what your SOC is. It would be nice to hear what you worked out to be a solution.
Sparky said:
Silly question, as I don't have my car yet. Does the car communicate over wifi or a cell network?

Cell network connects then thru the internet, sending you an email.

The car actually communicates to the BMW servers which then you interact with and /or they send the email.