How to: Make Apple CarPlay, Wireless

Published On April 29, 2018 | Feature, How To

Wireless Apple CarPlay has been available since iOS 9, however it has taken a few years for it to appear in factory fitted CarPlay stereos or the latest aftermarket CarPlay systems. As we approach the end of 2017, you can count compatible Wireless cars and aftermarket stereos with one hand.So what can you do to get Wireless Apple CarPlay in your vehicle today? There are a few options that we will go through with you, as well as let you know how to enable it on your iPhone once you have a wireless compatible vehicle or aftermarket stereo installed.

A-Class

The Mercedes-Benz 2018 A-Class will feature wireless CarPlay as a standard feature

Option 1: Wireless Apple CarPlay vehicle

The list of wireless CarPlay compatible vehicles is short, but we will certainly see this grow in future models. For now though, below are the available Wireless Apple CarPlay vehicles selling today:

  • BMW 2017 5 Series
  • BMW 2018 3 Series
  • Mercedes 2018 A-Class (Q3 2018)
  • Mercedes 2019 GLE (MBUX system)
  • Mini 2018 LCI Hatch & Convertible range

Yup, that list surely is short. However, Harman – a company that develops connected devices in a large number of manufacturers –  has shown off a wireless Apple CarPlay solution, so it is only a matter of time before this list of wireless Apple CarPlay compatible vehicles grow.

Harman’s list of supported manufacturers span Alfa Romeo, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Fiat, Harley Davidson, Jaguar, Jeep, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Maserasti, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, RAM, Rolls Royce, SEAT, Sokda, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen; so it is very likely that we will hear more wireless Apple CarPlay announcements from these manufacturers, soon.

Alpine ilX-107

The Alpine iLX-107 with wireless CarPlay in a Toyota Prius V

Option 2: Wireless Apple CarPlay receiver

Just like the stark mention of vehicles above, the selection of compatible wireless Apple CarPlay aftermarket receivers remain thin in 2018. Below is a list of compatible aftermarket receivers that you can buy today that features wireless Apple CarPlay:

In 2018, it is shocking how very few compatible receivers there are. Since their debut during CES 2018 in January, we have word that we will see this list grow later this year, or into 2019, with the likely release of wireless Apple CarPlay receivers from Pioneer and Kenwood, who both demo’d wireless Android Auto receivers in January at this year’s CES 2018.

Firmware Update

Option 3: Upgrade my stock stereo or aftermarket receiver to wireless CarPlay

If your vehicle isn’t already wireless CarPlay enabled, it is highly unlikely that it will be with a future firmware update from its maker. Why upgrade a year-old system, when you can release a whole new one with a major new (and enticing) feature -this is what automakers and aftermarkets will be saying. It makes good business sense, but at what cost of loyal users?

The likely reason though, is that the system in your vehicle does not contain the necessary parts for wireless CarPlay to function. It has been confirmed that wireless CarPlay requires both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. Once your vehicle has been switched on, the vehicle’s Bluetooth connects to your iPhone and makes a digital ‘handshake’ with it to automatically connect to your iPhone over Wi-Fi, for a more stable connection in the vehicle.

If your vehicle has Bluetooth you are half way there, but without Wi-Fi technology also inside, it is extremely unlikely you’ll be able to upgrade to wireless CarPlay using the same system. An upgraded OEM system with wireless CarPlay compatibility, or a wireless CarPlay compatible aftermarket solution is your only option here.

But my car DOES have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but still have no wireless CarPlay?!

Vehicles with both of these technologies, likely for data transmission for Maps and in-car entertainment, are slow becoming more frequent with car models with expensive upgrade options. But with these technologies already existing inside your dashboard, there is still no guarantee of wireless CarPlay. I’ve yet to see such a vehicle be upgraded to wireless CarPlay yet, but it may happen.

If your vehicle can already do Apple CarPlay, and it also has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, there is a chance of it being upgraded, but the decision will be purely down to the automaker and wether the technology has the specification it needs to upgrade the system to wireless CarPlay. If it has Apple CarPlay it’s half way there, and you in time you may read an announcement of existing systems being upgraded to support the wireless protocol. But that is a long shot.

Qi Charger

My car has Qi wireless charging, so can I use this for wireless CarPlay?

I get a number of questions about this ‘myth’, and the short answer is, no you can not.

The Qi wireless charging plate in your vehicle only handles wireless power, not wireless data. The reason for the required Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols is to transmit data to your vehicle’s entertainment system, to display CarPlay visual content to the screen and audio through to your speakers.

A wireless charging mat or charging mount is just going to send power wirelessly to your iPhone, nothing more. Because it isn’t ‘connected’ to your vehicle’s in-car system it just can’t ‘communicate’ with it.

Could I use a wireless CarPlay dongle?

Apple loves a good dongle, but sadly there is no dongle existing, yet, that can connect to your USB lightning cable that’s tucked away in your centre console or glove box, and transmit wireless CarPlay to your existing system. That, would be a fantastic invention that would make a number of existing CarPlay owners, including me, very happy!

But alas, nothing like this currently exists. Could it be made? Sure, I can’t see why not. There are a number of Android-based CarPlay USB dongles from China that have already cracked Apple’s CarPlay system and they allow you to run CarPlay on an Android device in the car, or even on a tablet. So transmitting wirelessly to your iPhone shouldn’t be too much of a problem. However data of a wireless protocol is a big security risk and I am sure Apple has a decent level of encryption that anyone making such a dongle would have to work with.

CarKit CarPlay Android Dongle

Our Android CarPlay USB dongle running on an Amazon Fire 8 tablet

Hopefully someone connected to the powers that be is reading this and starts the ball rolling in making such a product – If that’s you, please consider getting in touch with me to send over some commission for the idea. 🙂

Are you holding out for wireless CarPlay?

There are a number of you still holding out for wireless CarPlay, and I don’t blame you. However the convenience of connecting to your CarPlay system, wirelessly, is only as good as your iPhone’s battery life. Continuous navigating or streaming over Wi-Fi will certainly drain your battery even faster.

With wireless systems still a rarity; if the draw of owning a CarPlay system is strong, you maybe waiting for at least over a year for a $1000+ system (excluding install costs) to arrive. Even Alpine’s iLX-107 has yet to arrive here in the UK since its launch in the USA a number of months ago.

A wired connection isn’t all that bad, it keeps your iPhone charged, ready for next adventure outside the car, rather than leaving the car with a drastically low battery level. You can take the plunge now and dip your toe into CarPlay for as little as $300-$400, with the feature packed entry level SPH-DA120 from Pioneer or the Alpine iLX-007/700.

The wait for Wireless CarPlay will be a long before it becomes a standard feature

Wireless CarPlay is highly desirable, for not just new buyers of Apple’s in-car platform, but from a number of existing owners too. Its convenience is very high for short commutes, but less so for longer journeys.

As time goes on, over the next year I am sure we will have a number of options to chose from, both from automakers new vehicles and new aftermarkets too. We may not see upgradable options, as makers push new systems under our noses with the bullet-point feature of wireless support, and early adopters will pay through the nose for high-end options and aftermarket systems before it gets to a more consumer-friendly standard feature.

USB Android CarPlay Dongle

I have Wireless CarPlay, how do I enable it?

If you’re one of the lucky ones and you have a wireless CarPlay enabled vehicle of aftermarket stereo, then the process of connecting to your CarPlay unit, wirelessly, is very simple.

Follow our simple guide on How to: Enable Wireless Apple CarPlay and combined with your vehicles or aftermarket stereo manual, you’ll be streaming Apple CarPlay wirelessly in no time!