How to: Make Apple CarPlay, Wireless

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[Updated Feb 9 2020 – including Option 4 CPLAY2air wireless dongle]

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.

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 some of the available Wireless Apple CarPlay vehicles selling today:

A-Class
The Mercedes-Benz 2018 A-Class features wireless CarPlay as a standard
  • BMW 2017 5 Series
  • BMW 2018 3 Series
  • Audi 2019 A6 (unconfirmed)
  • Audi 2019 A7
  • Audi 2019 A8
  • Audi 2019 Q8 (unconfirmed)
  • Audi 2020 e-tron SUV
  • Lamborghini Urus
  • Mercedes 2018 A-Class (Q3 2018)
  • Mercedes 2019 GLE (MBUX system)
  • Mini 2018 LCI Hatch & Convertible range
  • Toyota 2020 Supra

This list 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, Maserati, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, RAM, Rolls Royce, SEAT, Skoda, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen; so it is very likely that we will hear more wireless Apple CarPlay announcements from these manufacturers, soon.

Option 2: Wireless Apple CarPlay receiver

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

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

In 2018, it was shocking how very few compatible receivers there are. But today in Q1 2020 we are seeing more and more aftermarket receivers feature wireless CarPlay as standard from Pioneer, Kenwood/JVC, with Alpine and Sony still pushing wired CarPlay models in Q1 2020.

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?

Firmware Update

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 halfway 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.

Option 4: Use a wireless CarPlay dongle

In 2018, I first wrote in this article saying that I wish I could connect a dongle to my USB lightning cable, that’s tucked away in your centre console or glove box, and transmit wireless CarPlay to my existing CarPlay system. Towards the end of 2019, this exact piece of hardware has been made and released.

This little box of magic makes an existing wired CarPlay receiver, wireless

The CPLAY2air and CarLinkit activator dongles are now selling for early adopters to embrace and transform their existing Apple CarPlay receiver into a wireless one. I have been lucky enough to sample the CPLAY2air dongle for factory CarPlay and I can report it actually works!

Read my full review on the CPLAY2air dongle here

CarLinkit also creates a similar (some report identical) wireless activator dongle that can be purchased from Amazon for $129.99 (up to 30 day shipping time) or AliExpresss for $127.84 (but with shipping that’s up to 40days long).

Do not get the above dongles mixed up with the cheaper Android only dongles that work with just receivers that run the Android operating system. These cost around $60 and will not work with factory wired CarPlay systems. So be warned and select the right dongle, or better still, use our links above to be directed to the correct dongles.

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

Vehicles with both of these technologies, likely for data transmission for Maps and in-car entertainment, are slowly 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 whether the technology has the specification it needs to upgrade the system to wireless CarPlay. If it has Apple CarPlay it’s halfway 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.

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 may be 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.

Wireless CarPlay is slowly becoming 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.

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 or aftermarket stereo, then the process of connecting to your CarPlay unit, wirelessly, is very simple.

USB Android CarPlay Dongle

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!

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Make Wired CarPlay, Wireless

CPLAY2air Wireless Apple Carplay Adapter Supports

Audi / Alfa Romeo / Cadillac / Citroen / Ford / GMC / Hyundai / Jeep / Kia / Mercedes-Benz / Opel / Porsche / Peugeot / Renault / Skoda / Seat / Toyota / Vauxhall / VW / Volvo + more

All vehicles must be equipped with a factory CarPlay system. Alpine, Pioneer, Kenwood receivers supported.

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