Home » The Next Mini Infotainment System Wants Us To Think Round

The Next Mini Infotainment System Wants Us To Think Round

Mini Round Screen Topshot
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It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite automotive innovation: Screens! No, wait, stop throwing tomatoes at me! Calm down, and I’ll tell you why this matters. In pretty much every car, the infotainment screen is more-or-less rectangular. After all, books are rectangular, phones are rectangular, televisions are rectangular. But why? Instead of being normal, Mini is asking everyone to think round in its next generation of cars, because quadrilateral screens are so 2011. Measuring 9.45 inches (240 mm) in diameter, this OLED screen reminds me of an enormous clock more than anything. Basically, Mini is paying homage to Flava Flav. On that screen sits the Android-based Mini Operating System 9, which is a big number, but it’s something worth walking through.

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Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

For starters, your gauges are now in the infotainment. Is this a bit stupid? Sure. However, central gauges are a part of Mini heritage, so I’m willing to grand a conditional pass here so long as they’re arranged well. Indeed, sitting right at the top of the screen is vehicle speed, predicted range, state of charge, and an ominous bar labeled “POWER.” In an electric vehicle, this is everything you need, and it’s in the closest part of the screen to the road. That’s alright, I reckon.

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Less than alright is how the automatic temperature controls are integrated into the screen, but at least they’re top-level, so I’ll keep my grumbling to an indoor level. There’s no word on how the heated seat controls are actuated though, and if they’re through the screen, Mini is about to learn that Canadians can be very not-nice when they like.

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Of course, being modern cars, the next generation of Minis will come with more interface skins and drive modes than you can shake a stick at. While some may argue this gamification of the car can be fun, I’d argue that unless you’re tweaking things for a specific track, it’s like going to a restaurant and paying extra to cook your food yourself. Some people like that, but chefs do what they do for a reason — they know better than us. Besides, the original Mini was set up one way from the factory: Good.

Mini Operating System 9

Still, I can’t say I’m completely immune to the charm. Perhaps my favorite mode at first glance is Timeless, a throwback to the BMC days. It features just the right amount of skeuomorphism, with a giant white-faced analog-emulating speedometer dial, a rolling odometer, and a strong serif font. Sure, you still get the app dock and temperature sliders, but sometimes less visible technology is the answer.

Mini Operating System 9 Spike

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Each next-generation Mini is also available with an optional Spike. No, not the pointy thing, but a tiny digital dog named Spike living in the infotainment system, helping you fetch…whatever you use voice commands for. I mean come on, just look at the little guy. Isn’t he adorable? And even if you have a heart of coal and don’t think he’s adorable, can you at least concede he’s better than Microsoft’s Clippy?

[Editor’s Note: I had a less charitable assessment of the dog and how this all smacked of Clippy-ness back in April, and my heart isn’t entirelycoal, so maybe keep that in mind. – JT]

Mini OS 9 navigation

With an EV, fantastic constantly-updated navigation is almost mandatory as it can help you find charging stations in unfamiliar areas. Sure, PlugShare exists, but finding stations through the infotainment often sends a message to your vehicle to precondition its battery for DC fast charging. The result? Fast charging, less time off the road, better pizza, better ingredients, Papa John’s. Oh, and the navigation system can also support augmented reality, in case you really liked Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition. Given the connected status of parent company BMW’s latest iDrive variants, it shouldn’t be surprising that new Mini models will be available with 5G connectivity for all the updates, re-routing, and “Re-Rewind” by The Artful Dodger you could possibly want. Spotify can be connected as a native app, as can video streaming, video games, and maybe even Blockbuster Video if you ask nicely enough.

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Before we go, here’s a shot of an upcoming Mini’s entire dashboard, which, well, it’s certainly daring. The illuminated houndstooth cloth is a great concept, but I think I’d need to see it in different lighting to pass final judgment. Then again, the British climate isn’t exactly known for constant sunshine, so perhaps this weird, de-saturated photo is more akin to real life than expected. Regardless, more interestingly-patterned cloth is a good thing, so it gets our hopes up for the full reveal. So, when do we get to see it? Should be anytime now, right?

(Photo credits: Mini)

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Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

Banya (reading): Why do they call it Ovaltine? The mug is round. The jar is
round. They should call it round tine. That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago

Yeah Flava Flav!
No MINI! (Except Mr. Bean MINI)

Last edited 1 month ago by Freelivin1327
Barry Allen
Barry Allen
1 month ago

I don’t like the central screen but I really appreciate the heads up display.

Scott
Scott
1 month ago

OK, I’m more than willing to consider round screens. And the idea of back-lit houndstooth has some potential appeal too: I’m constantly bemoaning the scarcity of houndstooth in contemporary fashion (well, to anyone willing to listen… so, mostly strangers).

However, and not to sound even more cantankerous than usual, Minis are too big and too expensive. Period.

Yes, I know they’re technically not that much bigger than the original (BMW) Minis, but they sure as hell look and feel a lot bigger, and even the smallest, first-gen ones are massive compared to classic Minis. And yes (again) I know that modern crash protection and infotainment, etc… preclude something the size of an old Mini in most places, not that anyone but a few weirdos (like me) would want one in the land of the Humvee.

I hope and pray that they will see fit to offer something like a Mini One stripper, though I know not to hold my breath for such a thing.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

Oh man I was on board till I saw the full picture! Flava Flav is right. Yikes!
One thing I’ll give these screens is the ability to control data. I really like my Mk8 GTI, I can control how I see, and to some degree how much. It would be awesome if like your phone or tablet there were downloadable themes, but functionally, I prefer the screen to the “dials”. Especially since you’re stuck with what they give you unless you feel like adding sensors and A pillar gauges.

Ivan256
Ivan256
1 month ago

I love the round screen, but I’m really REALLY disliking the spartan Teslaesque interior they’ve got going on here. Like hate levels of dislike.

I’ll hold my nose on the interior and plunk down a deposit to trade my F56 for one the hot second they offer the ICE S with a stick though. Are you listening, BMW? I’ve got cash.

MDMK
MDMK
1 month ago

So now drivers have the unique opportunity to be distracted by “cute” animated AI dogs on their infotainment screens? Great! So what’s next? Enabling facetiming while driving? Making drivers watch 30 second advertisements which pop up at random while the heated seats are on? Who knows.

SLM
SLM
1 month ago
Reply to  MDMK

I think you wish to activate the emergency braking system. Are you sure about that ? Do you wish some help do so ? Please respond by YES or NO

Greg
Greg
1 month ago

I was following along and going with it, until I saw the implementation.

Put your fucking screens IN THE DASH car designers. Not 6 inches above, not on top of, IN FLUSH. That would make this a go for me. With the additional measure of removing the driving information to a smaller screen, in front of the driver, so you know, they don’t have to look away from the road to drive their car. Holy cow people, HUD’s are coming everywhere and these assholes decide to go a complete step backwards.

Potential is there, implementation is horrid.

415s30
415s30
1 month ago

I have hated every BMW, sorry Mini dash, the one here is better I guess.

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago

Round is the best shape but I’d prefer not to have a screen at all. If I had to have a screen though I’d prefer a round one.

Ian McClure
Ian McClure
1 month ago

The stupid enormous center gauge on all modern Minis has always been the worst feature. Went way past cute nostalgia and into clownish excess.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian McClure

BOZO?

Meet Dave Jensen
Meet Dave Jensen
1 month ago

Until someone gets a decent voice activated system that actually understands all languages and accents i say ship these things off to the island of misfit assistants. I hate how a simple search has 4 more steps all of them telling my google assistant to fuck off i know my moms phone number. Also i know my mechanics shop name if i ask to call BWT AUTO REPAIR i dont need millions of search results with 4 pages of ads before i see the shop listed. As long as businesses want to steal our information none of this shit will work for us so i dont want to pay to have my identity stolen.

Miles Long
Miles Long
1 month ago

What kind of idiot buys a connected car when everyone knows the technology won’t be supported in a few years? Or buys a car with a screen that WILL die before long? No new cars for me, thanks very much.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
1 month ago
Reply to  Miles Long

Yup, most all new cars suck!

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
1 month ago

There are some aspects of this I genuinely like. The dog is a bit too much for me to take but my wife would find this adorable if it really works as advertised so there’s likely a market for cuteness especially for a brand like Mini.

I do have a serious question for anyone who might know:
Several brands are going all-in with these operating systems built by google and android now. GM, Volvo and now Mini and I’m sure more. Google and android have a history with sharing data that I would find… problematic, to put it charitably. Has anyone even asked what sort of vehicle data both inside and outside the cabin that is being shared with google and manufacturers?

I know the manufacturers have been collecting data for some time but I’ve never heard anyone ask or answer what they do with it and how much privacy can be expected in these systems.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Ottomottopean

how much privacy can be expected in these systems.

Ooh, ooh, I know this one! None! The answer is none!

Strangek
Strangek
1 month ago

So, what does the “POWER” bar indicate?

Miles Long
Miles Long
1 month ago
Reply to  Strangek

It indicates how much remaining life there is to the battery overall. Or vice versa with the other battery gauge.

Meet Dave Jensen
Meet Dave Jensen
1 month ago
Reply to  Strangek

It is showing 2x the amount of power you have

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

Could someone address the fact that LCD screens are often if not mostly incompatible with polarized glasses? At least on Toyotas.

Ivan256
Ivan256
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

This is what OLED is for. Since the display is round I’d hope to fuck it’s OLED. Just for manufacturing purposes.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Really? I can’t remember the last time I ran into a car screen that didn’t work with my polarized sunglasses. They all disappear if you tilt your head too far, but since I don’t make a habit of doing that so it’s not a problem. Even my old Prius screen is fine.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago

I’m old enough to remember when TVs were round, with a little bit of the top and bottom masked off

Meet Dave Jensen
Meet Dave Jensen
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Because tv cameras are round. That is why a rectangular tv screen cant be maximized to you

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 month ago

Considering that Mini’s are usually fun and whimsical, this interior is awfully drab looking. The round screen is… round? I guess that’s fun? But everything else is grayscale, and I’m going to bet that weird lit up dash will only be a pricey option for only the most expensive models.

I don’t have an issue with the round screen, but this one being so oversized for the dash gives it a sort of fragile and flimsy appearance to it.

James Kohler
James Kohler
1 month ago

If every new car past a certain year requires you to lean to the right, or more specifically, look to the right instead of slightly down from center to view a speedo, there will be a large market for mountable dash clusters. Perhaps the OEMs are doing this on purpose so they can sell you the add on?

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
1 month ago
Reply to  James Kohler

Heh, they’re going to have a rude awakening when 90% of all people order the Chinesium solution off ebay then.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago
Reply to  James Kohler

At least the one in the picture has the HUD. My Mini has a HUD and I use it far more than the actual gauges.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
1 month ago
Reply to  James Kohler

They’re doing it because 1 screen is cheaper than 2, but minimalism is the hot trend so they can pretend it’s a cool design.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
1 month ago

finding stations through the infotainment often sends a message to your vehicle to precondition its battery for DC fast charging

So… do electric cars have a button for that? Say I’m driving to my usual charging station and don’t need navigation, can I just press the “dinner’s almost ready” button so my car knows to get out the fork & knife? Or am I forced to type the address into my navigation if I want the preconditioning? Because, technically, if I wanted to do that in a legal way I’d have to pull over and turn off the car. To get directions to a place I’ve been to maybe a hundred times already. That would be… slightly annoying.

Also to hell with center screens.

Last edited 1 month ago by LuzifersLicht
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  LuzifersLicht

But what if you drive past your usual chasing station several times between charges? I know I drive past my usual gas station about 12 times between fill ups. And I assume that eventually the distribution of chasing locations will be similar if not more dispersed since the infrastructure lends itself to that model or at least you don’t need a bunch of pumps connected to a big tank that a semi truck can get to.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Well yeah that’s why I’m asking if there’s a button. So I can tell the car “I am going to charge you soon, please prepare your charging orifices” or whatever they do in order to get ready for charging.

Miles Long
Miles Long
1 month ago
Reply to  LuzifersLicht

It’s probably buried eight screens deep. You’ll never find it.

Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago
Reply to  LuzifersLicht

I suppose the best solution would be to have it as a favorite destination in your Nav settings, that way its only a quick tap to get the pre-conditioning running. And I’m sure between focus groups and the lot, having a button that will essentially kill your range if not used at the exact right time is probably a non-starter for most OEMs, but I do very much see your point in the utility of it.

LuzifersLicht
LuzifersLicht
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Does it kill your range? I know literally nothing about charging technicalities. I guess you could set the “precondition mode” to turn off on its own after 15 minutes? What if your usual charging spot is, say, a supermarket parking lot? Does the car precondition every time you go there? Does it never precondition? I guess you could still type it into the nav system if you wanted to charge not not type it in if you just want a case of beer.
The whole concept is … weird.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
1 month ago

As for the Flava Flav reference, they need to go all in on it and have him be their official spokesman and make him a detachable one he can wear around his neck, but lightweight as you know, dudes 64.

I’ll say it’s nice to have diversity in design, but this is really form over function, especially with the AC controls. The old gauge cluster was round because gauges are round and it all fit the design, as modern tech encroached it started to look more and more forced until now it’s almost comical so let’s add a cartoon dog too.

Modern touch screens are square/rectangle because screen real estate is more useful for squares/rectangles, like splitting between apps and when screen mirroring a phone with a square or rectangle design. If making a circular display the system is probably rendering a square design on the system and just cutting off the corners for the display. So it’s probably sacrificing not only real estate but general system resources just to have a pretty round screen.

Not to mention if one breaks getting a replacement could get really tough.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
1 month ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

IIRC, current Minis have the huge round center dial with an inset rectangular screen. Not the most elegant solution. I have no inherent problem with round screens; like anything else, it all depends on how well the UI is designed.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr. Fusion

I have a ’15 Mini with the rectangular screen in the round bezel, and no, it is not the most elegant solution. The round screen completely filling in the round bezel will be just fine. As for Apple carplay/Android auto that some are complaining about, this screen is plenty big enough to have a rectangular window in the middle for the phone operation while using the area outside the rectangle to maintain gauges/car info.

Flat6Fever
Flat6Fever
1 month ago

And the ultimate MINI Easter Egg. You heard it here first.
The round center disc can be removed and flown as a Frisbee Drone.

Last edited 1 month ago by Flat6Fever
Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
1 month ago

I mean, a round screen is not really any different from a rectangular screen, but we are definitely used to the rectangle look more.

I am just thinking of manufacturer cost, because I can’t think of another car manufacturer using round screens. It must have cost a bit more for that, and they seem to be all in on it.

Edit: I appreciate that there are physical controls for the A/C

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Wyman
Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Wyman

I have a round screen on my wrist RIGHT NOW.

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