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      05-01-2020, 08:37 AM   #1
Diegoale2000
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Idrive downgrade to Professional Radio

Hi Everyone,
I recently got a z4 after years of wanting one, and I am LOVING the car!
The one thing I never liked: BMW's infotainment system.

My car has iDrive so it came with the screen and iDrive knob, etc.
I promptly replaced that with an Android headunit, however, I am very limited as to what I can do with the idrive knob because certain buttons, etc are just not functional through the headunit.

My idea to solve this is:

1- remove iDrive radio and replace it with the non-idrive BMW professional radio.
2- take out iDrive knob and modify it so that it sends keyboard commands over USB
3- plug in modified idrive knob through USB into Android headunit and map the keyboard commands to functions.

I've never had a BMW before, and I've come to find out these systems are extremely intertwined, so I wanted to make sure downgrading to the BMW professional radio is feasible.

And a bonus question:
Has anyone adapted the steering wheel controls for usage with an aftermarket headunit?

Thank you all!
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      05-28-2020, 06:23 AM   #2
DavesZed
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diegoale2000 View Post
Hi Everyone,
I recently got a z4 after years of wanting one, and I am LOVING the car!
The one thing I never liked: BMW's infotainment system.

My car has iDrive so it came with the screen and iDrive knob, etc.
I promptly replaced that with an Android headunit, however, I am very limited as to what I can do with the idrive knob because certain buttons, etc are just not functional through the headunit.

My idea to solve this is:

1- remove iDrive radio and replace it with the non-idrive BMW professional radio.
2- take out iDrive knob and modify it so that it sends keyboard commands over USB
3- plug in modified idrive knob through USB into Android headunit and map the keyboard commands to functions.

I've never had a BMW before, and I've come to find out these systems are extremely intertwined, so I wanted to make sure downgrading to the BMW professional radio is feasible.

And a bonus question:
Has anyone adapted the steering wheel controls for usage with an aftermarket headunit?

Thank you all!
Good morning,
OK, so you've installed the Android screen in place of the OEM screen, but you say some of the controller functions are not working?
Has it been set up correctly within the Android screen settings and factory settings menus?
Check my install video out (skip to 49:40 for set-up section) and hopefully this may help.....


Although mine was set up for non-iDrive you could translate some of the settings over. All functions of the iDrive controller should work perfectly, but you need to realise that they won't always do the same in iDrive as they do in Android mode and vice-versa.

And on your idea, you'll have more trouble trying to convert the OEM controller as two of the lines are part of the canbus system and the other two are 12v power, so you'd end up having to butcher the controller to get it to work, probably easier to just contact your original supplier and see if they'd sell you the Android controller.

HTH
Let me know if you want anything further and I'll look into it for you as I have a fair amount of Knowledge with these Android units
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      05-28-2020, 06:28 AM   #3
DavesZed
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diegoale2000 View Post
...
And a bonus question:
Has anyone adapted the steering wheel controls for usage with an aftermarket headunit?

Thank you all!
You can get "Track skip" function to work from the steering wheel quite easily....

Turn car on.
Open built-in music player.
Once playing a song press the "return" button (top right of the Android screen).
This closes the Music player.
Now your chosen music app will work from the steering wheel, just open the app as normal and play away. I do this for Apple, Spotify, Android Auto etc
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Last edited by DavesZed; 05-28-2020 at 06:33 AM..
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      05-30-2020, 01:25 AM   #4
Diegoale2000
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DavesZed
Thanks for replying. I think I wasn't too clear on what my issues were. The head unit is installed correctly and works as THEY intended it upon releasing it.

Nav button opens my navigation app of choice, menu acts as "back", option as settings...etc..
I do, however feel that it doesn't feel like a well integrated system...

Issues:

1- iDrive wheel:
The iDrive wheel works perfectly fine when it is being used in one of their default applications (the default launcher, their music/video apps, settings menu, etc)
However, the moment you introduce an external application (such as headunit reloaded or a 3rd party launcher) it becomes unusable.

2- Mishmash of functionality:
The buttons either work for basic functions (such as nav, back, option) or they outright take you out of the android side...

The Voice button on the steering wheel activates BMWs voice assistant in the background even while in the Android side...

3- The System Memory:
System memory doesn't really hold... For example, every time I restart the car and connect my phone the headunit will forget that I've already allowed my phone to be accessed by headunit reloaded, and it will ask again for confirmation... in another device this would be a once and done, because it would be saved onto the application defaults.

These kind of things make the experience feel very choppy and half baked.

----------------------

The way I see it, these issues all boil down to a few things:

1- the BMW entertainment system takes over for certain functions.
2- the developers of this android headunit did not give users the ability to customize how the system responds to inputs.

I have already rooted my device, and have even completely bypassed the need to open the bluetooth app by disabling the Bluetooth music app, and having tasker running and listening to the system log for keypresses.

I made the same modification for the idrive wheel, and it works, which makes the idrive wheel work inside other apps, but it is slow because the system is constantly reading to log entries.

The ideal thing would be to have the idrive wheel sending out STANDARDIZED commands, such as keyboard presses, and then setting up a way for android to listen to those keyboard presses and send intents.

Having the idrive system modified to send out keyboard presses is not the hard part, there's several projects that have achieved it.

The main issue I have is not knowing if i am able to swap the idrive system to a regular professional radio without much trouble... AND what the voice button on the steering wheel will do when using the professional radio.

EDIT: I did want to thank you for the FANTASTIC job you did with the headunit install video, it's the one that convinced me to do the switch, and following your steps helped tremendously.

Even though it seems like i'm shitting on the head unit, it really is a great upgrade to my car, and I could not go back... I just want to go even further with it.
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      05-30-2020, 02:02 AM   #5
DavesZed
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diegoale2000 View Post
DavesZed
Thanks for replying. I think I wasn't too clear on what my issues were. The head unit is installed correctly and works as THEY intended it upon releasing it.

Nav button opens my navigation app of choice, menu acts as "back", option as settings...etc..
I do, however feel that it doesn't feel like a well integrated system... It isn't

Issues:

1- iDrive wheel:
The iDrive wheel works perfectly fine when it is being used in one of their default applications (the default launcher, their music/video apps, settings menu, etc)
However, the moment you introduce an external application (such as headunit reloaded or a 3rd party launcher) it becomes unusable. It doesn't, never has!

2- Mishmash of functionality:
The buttons either work for basic functions (such as nav, back, option) or they outright take you out of the android side... Only certain buttons are designed for Android use

The Voice button on the steering wheel activates BMWs voice assistant in the background even while in the Android side... That's what it is supposed to do, you have the option of adding an additional microphone

3- The System Memory:
System memory doesn't really hold... For example, every time I restart the car and connect my phone the headunit will forget that I've already allowed my phone to be accessed by headunit reloaded, and it will ask again for confirmation... in another device this would be a once and done, because it would be saved onto the application defaults. This is not a problem with the screen it is a problem with Headunit Reloaded, it happens to me fairly often.

These kind of things make the experience feel very choppy and half baked.

----------------------

The way I see it, these issues all boil down to a few things:

1- the BMW entertainment system takes over for certain functions.
2- the developers of this android headunit did not give users the ability to customize how the system responds to inputs.

I have already rooted my device, and have even completely bypassed the need to open the bluetooth app by disabling the Bluetooth music app, and having tasker running and listening to the system log for keypresses.

I made the same modification for the idrive wheel, and it works, which makes the idrive wheel work inside other apps, but it is slow because the system is constantly reading to log entries.

The ideal thing would be to have the idrive wheel sending out STANDARDIZED commands, such as keyboard presses, and then setting up a way for android to listen to those keyboard presses and send intents.

Having the idrive system modified to send out keyboard presses is not the hard part, there's several projects that have achieved it.
Replies in red above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diegoale2000 View Post
The main issue I have is not knowing if i am able to swap the idrive system to a regular professional radio without much trouble... AND what the voice button on the steering wheel will do when using the professional radio.
If you were to remove the iDrive and fit a standard headunit all you'd end up with no iDrive integration. The Voice button would still only activate Voice on the headunit and not on the Android. You would loose what you currently have and gain nothing. It would be a straightforward job but may still need some coding depending on the replacement headunit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diegoale2000 View Post
EDIT: I did want to thank you for the FANTASTIC job you did with the headunit install video, it's the one that convinced me to do the switch, and following your steps helped tremendously.

Even though it seems like i'm shitting on the head unit, it really is a great upgrade to my car, and I could not go back... I just want to go even further with it.
Thank you, it's nice to know that it has helped owners out. With a bit of luck I'll actually make an 1 year review (actually it's already 1 year and 2 months!) video at some point.
I had great expectations of this unit before I had mine, but to be honest it's not everything it could have been. Although it has the canbus lines into it, it draws very little information from the car, from the initial version running on Android 8.1 it showed you 'Doors open', but since the update to 8.1 and then in Android 9 they removed this feature, and AFAIA it isn't in the new Android 10 version either. So it seems that it receives that you have the lights on and dims the screen, knows the time set into the car and that's about it.
I tend to have mine on Android Auto most of the time via a hotspot connection which I've set up as a routine on my phone. Stopped using Headunit Reloaded as the current version keeps crashing. I do use Google Maps if I'm out (or Sygic if no phone signal) but that's about it really.

These systems have been around for a number of years now in the various Android guises. There have been these same issues all the time, looks like the program writers are lazy and can't be bothered to write what the buyers actually want in them!

I'd be interested in knowing how you got the controller to operate within apps!
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      06-05-2020, 01:29 PM   #6
sym0
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Hi!

I have the same unit and I'm very interested in what you Diegoale2000 are attempting.
Looking forward to your posts.

Btw. Digispark is very easy to use for keyboard mimic with 6 digital inputs - works great with the unit as it should, just tested today.
http://digistump.com/products/1
Works with Arduino IDE and for example sending a mediabutton keypress is as hard as
Code:
TrinketHidCombo.pressMultimediaKey(MMKEY_SCAN_NEXT_TRACK);

Could you please share the steps how to root this device?

Last edited by sym0; 06-05-2020 at 04:41 PM..
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      06-11-2020, 08:44 PM   #7
Diegoale2000
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Hi sym0
I used these steps, took the risk but it worked out.
https://f30.bimmerpost.com/forums/sh...postcount=1363

thanks for the recommendation of digispark, that's a very tempting avenue to look into.

DavesZed I think we haven't really understood each other too well in regards of the removal of iDrive.
Without the iDrive system, there is nothing "looking" for the idrive controller, therefore I can just modify the now "useless" idrive controller to send any command I want to the headunit, without having to abide to its limited functions... that's all.
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