Carly, BimmerCode or BimmerLink? Three Way Shootout — OBD2 Solutions For BMW

There are plenty of consumer-grade OBD2 scanner apps and adapters that allow you to perform diagnostic, maintenance, and customization tasks on your car, as well as advanced features that some solutions may offer. How do you choose which one is best for you, especially if you’ve got a certain brand of car? After all, there are solutions that support a wide variety of brands, as well as those that specialize in one, or a few related brands. In this article, we look at three of the most popular and versatile smartphone apps that you can use for BMW vehicles. Carly, BimmerCode and BimmerLink are all solid choices, and have their requisite feature sets, pros, and cons.

We should mention that while Carly is an all-inclusive app, BimmerCode and BimmerLink are split function apps that have their own specialization. You’ll also need an OBD2 adapter for the app to communicate with your car. Carly comes with its own adapter called the Carly Universal OBD Scanner, and will only work with that. BimmerCode and BimmerLink are rather more flexible, working with a wide variety of Bluetooth and WiFi OBD2 adaptors. However, there are hundreds of adaptors on the market, that range from the fantastic to the mediocre. To make your choice easier, we’ve selected two possible options which you will read about later in the article. That doesn’t mean you need to buy two adaptors, though, as BimmerCode and BimmerLink are happy to work with just one adaptor shared across the two.

A Quick Refresher on OBD

What’s OBD? OBD emerged out of the need to control vehicular emissions. In the Seventies, the air quality in major cities was becoming intolerable. California led the push for a Clean Air Act with defined emissions level, and one of the stipulations was that vehicles had to have a way to continuously monitor their emissions, and alert drivers to any issues. The On Board Diagnostics (OBD) standard was born in the Eighties as a result. Manufacturers soon realized it could act as a diagnostic tool for cars too, and a variety of proprietary interfaces and protocols emerged. You would need separate devices for each brand at that time. Workshops had to invest colossal amounts of money into buying each manufacturer’s specific OBD reader, and average prices were in four, even five figure sums, apiece!

In 1996, OBD2 was born with the aim of unifying all manufacturers under a common interface and protocol, as well as enabling advanced diagnostic, maintenance and other functions. To this day, the OBD2 standard prevails on all new vehicles, and OBD3 is in development to cater to the EV revolution.

The OBD2 standard communicates via a standard OBD2 port, and contains a set of standard protocols, plus manufacturer-specific protocols that each manufacturer may customize. For example, BMW vehicles use the customized protocols for communication and diagnosis of BMW-specific systems, and functions such as BMW coding. With the advent of smartphones and wireless communications technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi, consumer-grade solutions started to emerge in the past decade, allowing regular users and drivers to access what was previously the preserve of workshops.

Quick Comparison of Carly, BimmerCode and BimmerLink

Carly is a solution that offers a wide variety of features, apart from diagnosis of all accessible control systems on your BMW, you can perform coding, service and maintenance tasks, mileage verification, and more. BimmerCode, on the other hand, is a dedicated coding solution that allows you to code, or customize certain aspects of your BMW. Examples of coding include changing the speed lock settings, specifying climate control to default to recirculate mode, deactivating auto start-stop, behavior of lights, alarm, windows and more. If you want to perform diagnostic tasks on your BMW, you’ll need BimmerLink, which can perform diagnostics on your car’s computerized control units.

Let’s see how each one stacks up. We’ve given them scores (on a scale of one to five) where applicable.

Smartphone OS supportedAndroid and iOSAndroid and iOSAndroid and iOS
Diagnostic scans5/52/55/5
OBD2 functions and enhanced codes5/52/55/5
Advanced Service Functions3/5Not Applicable3/5
Coding capabilities3/54/5Not Applicable
BMW Vehicles supportedAll models from 1996 onwardsAll models from 2008 onwardsAll models from 2003 onwards

Prices and Suitable OBD2 Adapters

Let’s come to one of the most important aspects, which is how much they cost. We’ve created a handy little comparison here, and have selected a suitable OBD2 adapter for BimmerCode and BimmerLink as well. You don’t need to purchase individual adapters for BimmerCode and BimmerLink, as if you purchase just one, you can use it across both apps. Carly has its own adapter called the Carly Universal OBD Scanner which you can purchase direct from Carly and will work seamlessly with the app.

Each solution also offers a free ‘lite’ version which you can use to evaluate their usefulness before spending further on the full version. This is helpful if you’re having doubts about whether your choice is suitable.

AdapterCarly Universal OBD ScannerOBDLink CXOBDLink MX+
Price Range (scanner plus app)$79 – $119$55 – $65$95 – $105
Lite Version of appYesYesYes

At a glance, Carly may appear to be the priciest solution, but have a closer look, and you’ll see that if you want a full set of features plus coding, you’ll have to opt for BimmerCode and BimmerLink. That can take the total price at first time purchase (with just one adapter, as you don’t need two) further than Carly’s $119. However, we should point out that Carly’s app works on an annual subscription basis, so you’ll need to account for that as well.

Supported Models Comparison

If you’re still wondering if your particular BMW model is supported, we’ve created a table for you to figure that out. Simply use the search function to find your BMW’s model code and you’ll know in a glance if your BMW is supported by each of our three apps.

 BMW modelCarlyBimmerCodeBimmerLink
1 SeriesE8x (2004-2013)2004+2004+
2 Series F2x, F87 (2013-now)F22, F23, F87 (2013+)M2 2013+
3 SeriesE36 (1996-2000)E46 (1998-2007)E9x (2005-2013)F3x, F80 (2011-2020)G2x (2019-now)2005-2019M3 2005+
4 SeriesF3x, F82, F83 (2013-2021)G2x (20201-now)F32, F33, F36, F82, F83 (2013+)G22 2020+M4 2013+
5 Series E39 (1996-2004)E6x (2003-2010)F1x, F07 (2009-2018)G3x, F90 (2017-now)2003-2017M5 2005+
6 SeriesE6x (2003-2010)F1x, F06, (2011-2018)G32 (2017-now)2003-2007M6 2003+
7 SeriesE38 (1996 – 2001)E6x (2001-2015)F0x (2008-2015)G11 (2015-now)G11, G12 (2015+)F01, F02, F03, F04 (2008-2015)E65, E66, E67, E68 (2001-2008)2008+
8 SeriesG14, G15, F93 (2018-now)G14, G15, G16, F91, F92 (2018+)2018+
X1E84 (2009-2015)F48, F49 (2015-now)E84 (2009-2015)F48 2015+2009+
X2 F39 (2018-now)F39 2018+2018+
X3E83 (2003-2010)F25 (2010-2018)G01 (2017-now)G01 2017+F25 (2010-2017)E83 (2003-2010)X3, X3M (2010+)
X4F26 (2014-2018)G02 (2018-now)G02, F98 2018+F26 2014-2018X4, X4M (2014+)
X5E53 (1999-2006)E70 (2006-2013)F15, F85 (2013-2018)G05 (2018-now)E70 (2006-2008)G05, F95 2018+F15, F85 (2013-2018)E70 2006-2013X5, X5M (2006+)
X6E7x (2008-2014)F16, F86 (2014-2019)G06 (2019-now)2014+X6, X6M (2008+)
X7G07 (2019-now)G07 2019+2019+
Z3E36 (1996-2002)
Z4E85, E86 (2002-2008)E89 (2009-2016)G29 (2018-now)E89 (2002-2008)E89 (2009-2016)G29 2018+2009+
i3I01 2013+I01 2013+2013+
i8I12, I15 (2013-2020)I12, I15 2013+2013+


Carly OBD
Carly OBD

Carly is a German product that was predominantly developed to cater to German market vehicles, such as those from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche. However, Carly has since expanded to cover other European vehicle manufacturers and models, as well as those from North America, Japan, and Korea. Carly communicates with your vehicle via their proprietary adapter, the Carly Universal OBD Scanner, and ensures seamless connectivity since both have been developed to work together. Carly’s features include:

  • A broad spectrum of diagnostic abilities, including some advanced diagnostic capabilities.
  • User friendly interface with easy-to-understand ‘traffic light system’ for displaying errors, categorizing them as Red (urgent), Amber (important) and Green (can be ignored).
  • Coding function that offers most basic coding options, although not as powerful as Bimmercode.
  • Roll-back function (backup) that allows you to reset coding settings if you don’t like the changes you’ve made.
  • Easy to understand interface for selecting coding functions.
  • Digital Garage section for maintenance tasks as well as storing and retrieving coding backups and historical reports.
  • Carly Used Car Check which performs powerful scans across multiple control units on a vehicle to detect mileage tampering and is very useful when you’re checking out a used car to purchase.
  • Carly allows you to monitor certain data parameters in real time, while driving. These can include engine speed, road speed, intake temperature, turbo boost, throttle position, brake pressure, and more, depending on your vehicle and its system capabilities.

However, Carly does have some shortcomings, including:

  • Coding function is relatively weak in comparison to Bimmercode.
  • Carly struggles with coding older BMWs such as the E36, offering a limited coding set in comparison to Bimmercode.
  • The app only works with the Carly Universal OBD Scanner so you can’t use any other OBD adapter with Carly.
  • Annual subscription means you have to pay every year.



BimmerCode is a solution that’s developed specifically for performing coding functions on the control units of BMW vehicles, as the name suggests. BimmerCode doesn’t offer advanced diagnostic functions, mileage checks or service minders. You can’For that, you’ve got to go to BimmerLink. Instead, BimmerCode focuses on offering a powerful and in-depth platform for coding the various functions on your BMW. It doesn’t really support other vehicle brands as a result.

BimmerCode only allows you to read parameters from the ECU. It won’t flag errors or anomalous values unlike Carly and BimmerLink, However, an advanced and knowledgeable user may be able to identify anomalous values and infer that there is an issue on their BMW.

While Carly’s coding interface is simplistic, BimmerCode categorizes codes in a different way, from easy to code, to difficult to code. You need to bear in mind that many of the advanced coding functions are in German, since that’s the language in which your BMW is coded with. BimmerCode’s salient function set is:

  • Most powerful coding tool for your BMW.
  • Allows you to code almost all codable functions without requiring a visit to a workshop or professional tools.
  • Coding backup and retrieval allows for easy roll-back.
  • BimmerCode categorizes coding according to difficulty, so novice users can stick with Easy functions, while advanced users can try out the Expert section. Note that many Expert functions are coded in German.
  • Offers more features to code for older BMWs than Carly.
  • Supports a wide range of OBD scanners and adapters, including WiFi as well as Bluetooth options.

Let’s look at BimmerCode’s shortcomings.

  • Doesn’t offer diagnostics, maintenance and service resets, or advanced features. For that you will need BimmerLink.
  • No Used Car Check function like Carly.
  • Interface can be a little daunting at first.
  • No live data monitoring function.
  • Doesn’t really support other vehicle brands.


BimmerLink provides the functionality that BimmerCode doesn’t. Diagnostic scans, service and maintenance tasks, advanced functions and more, it’s all offered with BimmerCode. You can have both apps installed on your smartphone, and use a single OBD2 adapter with them, as BimmerCode supports a wide variety of OBD2 adapters, unlike Carly which is tied to its own-branded adapter. Here’s what BimmerLink offers.

  • Full diagnostics and reading of error codes, with clearing of codes as well.
  • Maintenance and service minders, and tasks with relevant reset functions such as oil change intervals and battery re-initializations.
  • Offers several crucial and BMW-specific functions, such as DPF regeneration, battery registration, mute Active Sound Design (ASD), service resets, exhaust flap control, and sound control.
  • Error memory feature allows you to view historical errors.
  • Real time data monitoring function.
  • Supports a wide array of adaptors, Bluetooth enabled, as well as WiFi options.

Bimmerlink does have a few shortcomings as well, including:

  • Primarily tailored for BMW vehicles, so if you have another brand, you may need another scanning solution for that.
  • No coding – this is the domain of BimmerCode.
  • Doesn’t appear to have full historical reporting function.
  • No ability to check cars for mileage tampering.
  • Doesn’t really support other vehicle brands.

Which Is Best For You?

If you’re looking for the best overall solution for your BMW, and don’t want to delve into every single function that can be coded and accessed, Carly is your best bet. It offers a great range of functions for its price point, and the easy to understand user interface is great for first-time users and novices. Its coding function is more than enough for novice and intermediate users, and you can roll back your changes too. The maintenance minder and service reset tools are great, as is the real time data monitoring and Carly Used Car Check. Carly is our pick.

However, there are areas in which Carly may not be sufficient, especially if you’re a heavy coding enthusiast, have an older BMW, or want to access some advanced functions. In that case, a combination of BimmerCode and BimmerLink is your best bet. You can purchase a single adapter of your choice, and use with both apps.

We’ve touched on three options here, but there are many more in the market. Check out some of our previous articles for more comparisons between the most popular consumer-grade OBD2 scanning solutions available on the market.

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Congratulations to Carly OBD

The Unrivaled Champion of Our OBD Device Showdown!

Breaking through the competition with stellar performance, unmatched diagnostics, and exceptional user experience, Carly OBD is our ‘Best OBD Device of 2023′! 

Excellence you can trust, the power of diagnostics in your hand – that’s Carly OBD.

Experience the Carly Difference today – the ultimate partner for your vehicle’s health and performance!

Congratulations to Carly OBD

The Unrivaled Champion of Our OBD Device Showdown!

Breaking through the competition with stellar performance, unmatched diagnostics, and exceptional user experience, Carly OBD is our ‘Best OBD Device of 2023′! 

Excellence you can trust, the power of diagnostics in your hand – that’s Carly OBD.

Experience the Carly Difference today – the ultimate partner for your vehicle’s health and performance!