Wireless CarPlay – What We Know


Since Apple’s introduction of CarPlay into vehicles and aftermarket stereos, the only way to get your  Apple device talking to your CarPlay enabled in-car stereo system is to plug it in using the bundled (or an official) USB lightning cable.

This is all well and good, and it is an ideal solution should you wish to power your iPhone whilst it is in use with the CarPlay system, however being able to jump into your vehicle and have your CarPlay system automatically connect without the need to plug it in would be a dreamy experience.

This is where a wireless solution would be most welcome, and thankfully, Apple would like to cut the cord too, as they plan on bringing wireless connectivity to new CarPlay enabled vehicles and aftermarket systems.

So what do we know about Apple’s Wireless CarPlay? Is it coming soon? What will we be able to do? And what stereos are going to support it? Let’s look at what we know so far.

When is Wireless CarPlay Coming?

The short answer to this is – very soon! Apple developers saw the inclusion of Wireless CarPlay in a Beta release of their iOS software 8.3. However, with the public release of this update, Apple decided to swiftly remove this feature.

So why would they do that? Well, the chances are that there aren’t any systems that support Wireless CarPlay, just yet. Apple is no doubt waiting until a manufacturer or an aftermarket system to support Wireless CarPlay before they will be shouting from the rooftops about this new feature.

With the release of iOS 8.4 coming fairly soon and Apple’s developer conference – WWDC – dated for early June, I am sure we will hear more about Wireless CarPlay very soon. Right now it seems, though, that we’re waiting for more for hardware support before Apple rolls this feature out to the world. They may even keep it back as a bullet-point feature for iOS 9, which will release publically much later in the year and it will give more manufacturers enough time to support the new connectivity standard. But let’s hope not!

84th Geneva Motor Show – Press day

Will My Current CarPlay Stereo Support Wireless CarPlay?

Sadly, like all new technologies and early adopters, it is very likely that your current system won’t support Wireless CarPlay. It really depends on how Apple’s devices will talk wirelessly to the in-car stereo system. We have low-power Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wavebands available on the iPhone, and with many current in-car systems supporting only Bluetooth, these stereos may support Wireless CarPlay via a simple firmware update…

I wouldn’t cross your fingers just yet, however, there is increasing chatter that Wi-Fi will be the only way to wireless connect Apple’s devices to CarPlay systems. So that rules out any current CarPlay systems, apart from one…

Aftermarket units, such as the Alpine iLX-700/iLX-007 has a Wi-Fi chipset spotted inside its hardware, and it could be the only Wireless CarPlay compatible system selling today. Sadly, there has been no such functionality announced for Alpine’s CarPlay compatible system, apart from a small mention in the back of the owners manual. Even Alpine has been very quite/coy in replying to anyone asking about said feature on Twitter.

Pioneer has been more vocal about their current line-up of stereo systems. Both at consumer tech shows and on social media, Pioneer has stated that their lack of Wi-Fi in their current models will mean all their current line-up will not support Wireless CarPlay. Further confirming that Wi-Fi is the preferred method for Wireless CarPlay.

“When asked, Pioneer stated that the current crop of NEX models will not be supporting the new wireless CarPlay functionality debuted in iOS version 8.3, due to their lack of the necessary Wi-Fi hardware.” [Source 15th April 2015]

So we can safely confirm that Wi-Fi is going to be the main method for wirelessly connecting Apple devices to CarPlay, with many WLAN (Wireless networking) and Bluetooth chips being created by chipset manufacturers, specifically for use in road vehicles.

So How Will Wireless CarPlay Work?

No one really knows – but we can have a good guess! Wireless CarPlay will simply enable everything you do with current Apple CarPlay systems, but without the need to connect a USB lightning cable between your Apple iPhone and the CarPlay enabled device.

So the vision here is that you will be able to jump into your vehicle and once started, and paired to your device, your Apple device will wirelessly connect to a Wi-Fi chip located inside the stereo, just like how Bluetooth does currently, and you’ll have immediate access to CarPlay enabled apps directly on your CarPlay stereo without the need to pull your phone out of your pocket or bag.

Whether this experience will be that seamless is still unknown. Apple might make a switch on its control centre to connect to CarPlay instead of locking up your device whenever it gets near to a CarPlay enabled stereo. But, knowing Apple, the user experience will, in the end, feel seamless. Or at least that what I’d hope!

Hold Tight, Wireless It’s Coming!

There is no further news on Wireless CarPlay since its disappearance in the iOS 8.3 public release. It’s all hear-say and rumour for now, with many in the industry staying tight-lipped on the whole subject.

I bet Apple wished they never mentioned it in their iOS 8.3 release notes. But because they did, it means that Wireless CarPlay is coming very soon, and it seems the waiting game is in the hands of the hardware manufacturers rather than Apple itself.

Let’s just hope in the next few months we will be wiser on how Wireless CarPlay will function and what vehicles and aftermarket stereos will support it. I for one cannot wait!

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