Enjoy my Ottocast U2-Smart Android 9 Adapter Review. You can buy the U2-Smart dongle from Ottocast for $300 from Amazon US → https://amzn.to/3ffza4x (Use coupon code 10SOSCUI for 10% OFF ends 10 Sept) or for £319 from Amazon UK → https://amzn.to/3zTAPV6 (Use coupon code J9C2VE32 for 10% OFF ends 14 Sept).
I have already covered a few Android OS dongles for CarPlay systems on this channel, and today I have another one to show you from Ottocast. The Wireless CarPlay Adapter U2-Smart multimedia AI Box, for factory wired CarPlay vehicle and aftermarket receivers, converts your existing CarPlay system into an Android 9 operating system that allows you to run many Android apps from the Google Play app store, including streaming video and movie apps like YouTube and NetFlix, as well as TV apps and games. This dongle also has wireless CarPlay functionality, so you can jump between both Android OS and wireless CarPlay platforms without disconnecting the dongle.
In the box you get the Ottocast U2-Smart AI Box itself, there’s a welcome card and a small user manual, and there is a GPS kit to attach to your car fuse box should you wish to use any GPS or navigation Android apps with this dongle.
Comparing the Ottocast US-Smart with the MMB AI Box, their sizes are pretty identical, however, the Ottocast case is slightly thinner. The Ottocast has a dark shiny black casing with a white logo on top, and above that is a hidden Car Smart logo that lights up underneath when the dongle is powered on. They both have the same USB-C output port for connecting their bundled USB cable, and there is USB-A input port for connecting to any USB media, charging, or adding peripherals. Its charging cable is the longest out of the three Android OS dongles that I have tested, so this will allow you to place the dongle a little further away from the vehicle’s CarPlay USB port, should you need it to.
The GPS kit looks identical to the ones supplied with the MMB dongles. I have yet to get this GPS kit to work myself, and their manual doesn’t help in any way on how to attach it to your existing fuse box, and I dare attempt this myself on any modern car that relies so much on electronics. If you don’t decide to plug this GPS kit, Android apps that require it will try to position you using mobile and WiFi data location instead, which isn’t going to be as smooth. If it was me, I would stick with using navigation apps inside CarPlay.
Overall, my impressions are pretty much the same as the other Android AI Boxes that I have covered on my channel. The software layer underneath is nearly identical, with the obvious differences being the UI layer on top. You can change the UI on these AI Boxes by downloading a different boot loader and messing about with a different interface, but underneath this visual layer, the performance and functionality are pretty much the same.
Switching between CarPlay and Android OS still requires a reboot before you can dive into the other platform, and the option to choose your preferred platform on bootup is also available, which is nice to have if you mostly want to use wireless CarPlay from this dongle, and have the Android OS as a means to watch videos or movies when you’re stationary in your car for a long period of time. (Because driving with video on your CarPlay screen is bad m’kay!)
Charging through the dongle’s USB A port offers some flexibility over the more traditional wireless CarPlay adapters, but don’t expect any fast speeds, unless your CarPlay USB port supports it. My CarPlay USB port outputs a max of 5W and charging from the dongle’s USB port reduces this output to around 2W of power to my iPhone, which when using some demanding streaming or navigation apps I might not be charging my iPhone fast enough to gain any battery at the end or during my journey.
The U2-Smart dongle gave one of the best Wi-Fi signal qualities out of all the dongles I have tested, with a dBm of -58. Its chipset features the faster Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac standard, and with one antenna inside the case, its max data rate is up to 433.3 Megabits per second. Which is slightly more than most wireless CarPlay adapters. This will help with voice calling and audio latency in CarPlay to some extent, but in my testing, it wasn’t that noticeably different to any other dongles I have tested.
As OEMs grow and release their own dongles with different case designs and logos on them, inside each of them is pretty much the same. A smaller case might be prone to overheating quicker than the same dongle that features a bigger case, so it really comes down to price and whether you like the UI Ottocast has used. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of it. I would have preferred traditional app icons to the themed icons used on this Ottocast U2-Smart. And, as soon as you download your own apps from the Google Play store and bring them onto the Home Screen, they will show alongside these coloured icons and it will begin to look like a mixed bag of themed and standard icons.
Like all the other Android AI Box dongles, the U2-Smart from Ottocast offers a great way to get Android OS on your CarPlay display, and more importantly, these AI Boxes are the only way right now to watch video apps such as NetFlix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ on your CarpLay display without jailbreaking your iPhone. But you are limited by the speed of the Android OS and the average performance of the chipset inside, plus your iPhone’s personal hotspot and its data speed. With all of these combined, the experience isn’t as smooth and responsive as I had hoped. I also found certain apps such as Android Auto wouldn’t download onto this Android 9 platform, an issue I still to this day can’t figure out why, when the same app installed just fine on the Android 7 AI Box dongles.
If you’re interested in buying this dongle for your CarPlay supported stereo and you want to check if it is compatible. Click on the compatibility link in the description below to view their full compatibility list and see if your vehicle or aftermarket receiver is mentioned, if it isn’t you can reach out to their support team for clarification.
0:00 – Intro
0:16 – Brief overview
1:02 – Unboxing
2:40 – Installation
9:50 – Netflix
11:12 – Picture in Picture
11:42 – Google Maps
13:19 – YouTube
14:17 – Split Screen
15:54 – Google Play Store
18:06 – Wireless CarPlay
26:27 – My Impressions