Hacking the cell connection of Audi MMI (2013 model)

After buying an Audi Q5 in large part based on the quality of the MMI (navigation/Google maps/car control system), I became convinced it would be hard for me to live without once the promotional period for cell data (6 months on T-mobile) expired.  The key things I wanted:

  1. Real time traffic: super useful for at a glance routing.
  2. Voice (Google) searches for destinations (online destinations in Audi terms).
It turns out that #1 isn't even served from cell data at all.  The traffic data comes from the Sirius satellite service, which expired before the T-Mobile promo did.  I was able to find out that Audi includes the traffic portion of the subscription, without any of the radio.  This is perfect for a geek who can get any radio I want from my cell phone (Google Music/Pandora/TuneIn Radio).

For #2, I would need an activated SIM.  I stumbled across a thread on an audi forum where other folks were discussing how to keep this functionality without paying T-Mobile 30 bucks a month (which seems unreasonable to me).  Luckily, there's a super easy solution, which is also cheap!  Truphone.com offers a prepaid SIM which is pay as you go (as opposed to pre-paid monthly).  As it turns out, you can simply order a SIM, preload it with 15 bucks or whatever you decide, and you're good to go.  All you need to do is set your APN to truphone.com, and leave username and password blank.  Because Truphone is an MVNO on T-Mobile, the Audi has no issues using it for its cell connection.

The best part of all of this is after 3 months of using this sim, I have paid about .50 in usage (!!!).  If you happen to have a modern Audi MMI, I highly recommend checking out truphone and saving a few bucks.  The only catch is that you might not want to turn on wifi sharing on this SIM, as it would use a lot more than the voice queries.  I've opted to simply use my phone as a wifi hotspot if it is ever needed (ironically, this is free on T-Mobile with my Nexus 4).  



How is this working out for you? I am looking for a similar solution for my Q5.
Matt Ruhstaller said…
It's working great. Occasionally it will get stuck on 2G for a while (roaming to AT&T), but thats pretty rare. We've used like 2-3 dollars of data in 6+ months, so I declare it a complete success!
Hey Matt, I have the same problem of getting stuck on AT&T. Do you know how to get back on T-Mobile and get 3G...? Thanx
Matt Ruhstaller said…
Most times, it will clear up itself. Alternatively, you can pop the SIM into another device (I have a Nexus 5), and manually select T-Mobile from the network operators. Every time I have done that, the setting has stuck when I put it back into the MMI.
Thanx Matt. I have tried that too but I have an old Nokia. I put it back in the car and still shows 2G. Anyways Thanx.
Matt Ruhstaller said…
You can also fiddle with the settings in the MMI and toggle roaming and see if that fixes it. Seems like its just a little flakey... Good luck!
Chris said…
Hi there - just wanted to say THANK YOU! . Bought my Q5 with MMI a few months ago. I like the features of the MMI but didn't like the $$ I have to pay each month kicking in 6 months after purchasing the car.
So I went ahead, bought a truphone SIM and thanks to your description I was able to get it up and running. 3G showed up pretty quickly but it took another 15-20 minutes until I was able to use it without error messages. Sort of weird but hey ... like this option of data plan much better.
Matt Ruhstaller said…
Hey Chris, happy to hear it is working for you. Thanks for the note!
Charan said…

Did you try lyca mobile ? I see in forums that this one is cheap too. can you send me the link to truphone ? I see I have to pay atleast $50 for truphone where as for lyca they are giving the sim for free but only charging for shipping.

Thanks in advance.
Luigi Catanzaro said…
Hey did you end up going with any solution in particular? I'm interested in this as well
let me know.

which Country are you in? I'm in the US
Matt Ruhstaller said…
I only ever tried Truphone, but if you find something else that works, please let me know and I'll update the page.
Maritza Mestre said…
Ok, gonna try this! Thank you for posting. How did you get the traffic to work with MMI? I have a Sirius subscription, so should it work for me without the ridiculously priced data plans? Thanks in advance!
Matt Ruhstaller said…
The traffic info actually comes from Sirius (this was a surprise to me as well), and is supposedly free for 4 years when you purchase a qualifying car. Mine was disabled when the 3 month sat radio trial expired, but a phone call to Sirius got it restored.

Charan said…
How do I check if traffic is enabled or disabled ?
Charan said…
lycamobile worked for me although it takes little time to show 3G on the screen. For the APN settings, google "lycamobile APN settings" and you will get the results. Remember, if you do not use sim card (like calling or texting) for more than 90 days it will be deactivated.
PianoMan said…
Thanks for all the advice. I have purchased truphone and was able to set up this fine. It normally changes to ATT 2G in my home area which has extremely poor T-Mobile connection. Was disappointed to have burned through more than $10.00 on the first day. All I had was Google maps on so wondering whether those charges came because of Google maps or maybe roaming to AT&T.
Chris said…
Hi there - same experience like PianoMan. Matt, I am not sure what features of the MMI you are using but simple
Navigation including search burned through $15 in less then 2 weeks.
Here is my take away: Truephone is working but if you are using your MMI 4-5 times each week you are better off extending the t-mobile plan for $15/month which comes with unlimited data.
Matt Ruhstaller said…
Hmm, not sure whats different for you folks. I just checked this morning, and still have 12 dollars of my original 15 after 18 months. I use the navigation fairly regularly, although I have started using Waze on my phone more often.

Sorry to hear it wasn't as awesome for you guys.
madrid said…
Hi, I want to use this for my Audi A6 2013 model in US. To buy truphone sim it is asking me for standard , Micro , Nano Sim. Is Standard sim is the one which goes into Audi A6 ?
Unknown said…
standard - the big sim is what is used in Audi but you can get adapters if you want as well
Tom Snyder said…
Be Aware that older MMIs dont support the new TMO frequencies and may need an upgrade from audi --- essentially getting you stuck in 2G but the data still works just is a bit slower

* Modem Update for C7 MY2012/2013:

For MY2012-2013 C7 Audis with Nav Plus Audi Connect: in a very few locales this year, T-Mobile is changing their 3G (the same 3G frequency as used by AT&T). If you live in one of those locales, you should receive letters from AoA and T-Mobile directing you to select Audi dealers which will retrofit your 5F MMI module to accommodate the new 3G frequency. Once updated, you can switch to AT&T 3G if desired. Note that this update will not accommodate LTE 4G.

Here is a list of locales affected so far:
Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston among major T-Mobile markets having their AWS 3G/4G networks shut down this summer » TmoNews
I have a 2013 A7 and just purchased a Truphone SIM card. I followed the instructions above, set the APN to truphone.com and left the username and password blank. Nothing happened. Car recognizes the SIM card that is inserted but the 2G & Signal bars are still greyed out. Not sure what I am missing, but would appreciate any help. Thanks
Matt Ruhstaller said…
Hmm. I no longer have the Audi or use Truphone, but I see that truphone still list the instructions[1] the same as they did when this worked. Maybe try the sim in another phone first to see if it works?

Sorry I can't be of more help, good luck!

[1] - https://support.truphone.com/s/article/How-To-Configure-Your-APN-Settings-Android?language=en_US

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