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Rara for BMW streaming music service hands on

The Good

  • Unlimited downloads across Europe

The Bad

  • UI could be simpler
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Streaming on-demand music in your BMW, anyone? Cat Dow goes hands on with the Rara service.

Remember Rara, the swanky streaming audio app for the BMW 5 Series? Well, good news for BMW-owning music junkies; the service has now expanded to virtually all BMW models and we’ve had a chance to play around with it.

RaRa lets you stream music directly to your BMW over the Internet.
RaRa lets you stream music directly to your BMW over the Internet.

Stream punk

Our test didn’t get off to the best of starts. The system relies heavily on cellular mobile phone connectivity to function at its best and East London’s City Airport, the location for our hands on session, does for mobile phone signal what Nigella Lawson does for the war on drugs.

Streaming tracks directly from the car’s built-in SIM card was pretty much out of the question, though it’s clear your own mileage will vary, depending on your location and the level of connectivity on offer.

Luckily, the BMW head unit, designed by Harman, can store can store Rara tracks for offline use on your BMW’s hard drive in customisable playlists, so in an area of weak signal, you won’t be without something to listen to.

The optional head-up display shows driving information, and also track data.
The optional head-up display shows driving information, and also track data.

Ease of use

To access the system, you can use your BMW’s voice recognition feature — activated via a button on the steering wheel – to take you to the ‘Online Entertainment’ section of the Connected Drive infotainment system.

You can then use BMW’s iDrive controller to scroll or scrawl letters that describe your music of choice. Twist the knob to select from letters in a rotating alphabet wheel, or write the letters with your finger (much like you might on a mouse trackpad). The Rara interface isn’t the simplest we’ve come across, but it’s simple enough to fathom after some extended use.

Rara has a team of content managers, who create new playlists to offer track collections to suit just about every mood. You can create your own playlists via your smartphone or tablet device and these will sync to your vehicle’s system.

The RaRa app can be controlled via BMW's iDrive controller.
The Rara app can be controlled via BMW’s iDrive controller.

Value for money

This service doesn’t come cheap at £325 for the first year, dropping to £225 for subsequent years. That cost covers both your subscription to Rara’s service and the Vodafone data roaming, which is unlimited across Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Spain and the UK.

Verdict

Would we subscribe to Rara? Well it’s certainly an impressive, easy to use service, offering a very good variety of music, but it’s hard to recommend it due to the high price. It’s a simple fact that most users would be better off subscribing to Rara on their smartphones and playing tracks through their car stereo via Bluetooth.

Go that route and Rara will set you back a mere £9.99 per month, with the first three months costing just £1.99. That’s a yearly cost of £95.88 – £225 cheaper than the first year of Rara if you choose to subscribe to it through your BMW’s infotainment system.

Admittedly, subscribing through your car gives you the advantage of downloading as many tracks as you like across several European countries, so if you’re regularly trekking between EU nations then it’s definitely worth considering.

Bear in mind, however, BMW intends to add more partners to its Connected Drive service to give its customers as much choice as possible. It is currently in negotiations with Napster, which is likely to be added next year. 

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