CarPlay is a handy and safe way to extend the functionality of your iPhone to your vehicle. But can you connect your iPhone to your CarPlay receiver wirelessly?
In short, CarPlay does support wireless connectivity. But even if your car has a CarPlay-compatible receiver, there’s a good chance that you’ll only be able to connect to it via Lightning cable.
Here’s everything that you need to know.
Why doesn’t my car have wireless CarPlay?
First off, if you don’t have CarPlay, it’s probably because your infotainment system doesn’t offer the Apple-produced service. It may have been a big selling point at the time of sale if it did.
But if you do have CarPlay in your vehicle and you’re wondering why you can’t connect your iPhone to it wirelessly (even though you have Bluetooth), the answer is actually somewhat complicated. As we’ve mentioned, Apple CarPlay does actually support wireless connections, but only for vehicles with very specific hardware. And a simple Bluetooth connection simply won’t cut it.
Even though you may be able to connect to a standard receiver via Bluetooth, the wireless standard isn’t robust enough to handle the kind of data transferal that CarPlay requires to work.
Wireless CarPlay needs Bluetooth and in-vehicle Wi-Fi to work properly. But that’s not all. Your car actually also needs to have a dual-band router built-in to allow for CarPlay.
That’s why many vehicles with both in-vehicle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity don’t support the Apple infotainment system.
So if you don’t have wireless CarPlay in your vehicle but you want to start using it, how do you get about actually getting it? Well, that brings us to…
How to add wireless CarPlay to your car
There are a number of ways that you can get wireless CarPlay connectivity or add it to your vehicle, but none of them are free and some aren’t particularly easy. Here are your options.
Option 1: Buy a car with wireless CarPlay
To start, you can simply buy a vehicle that supports wireless CarPlay right out of the gate. This is, obviously, not really a realistic option for most users. But if you’re in the market for a new car and wireless CarPlay is high up on your list of priorities, here’s a list of vehicles that offer it.
You probably notice that this is a fairly shortlist. And that’s mostly because of the relatively high cost and complexity of the hardware required to add wireless CarPlay.
- Audi A6 (2019 and newer)
- Audi A7 (2019 and newer)
- Audi A8 (2019 and newer)
- Audi Q8 (2019 and newer)
- Audi e-tron SUV (2020 and newer)
- BMW 5 Series (2017 and newer)
- BMW 3 Series (2018 and newer)
- 2019 BMW range
- Lamborghini Urus (2017 and newer)
- Mercedes A-Class (2018 and newer)
- Mercedes GLE (2019 and newer)
- 2019 Mini range
- Toyota Supra (2020 and newer)
But rest assured that simpler solutions are coming. And, in time, the list of cars with wireless CarPlay baked-in will likely grow.
Option 2: Install an aftermarket CarPlay receiver
Your second — and more realistic — option is to buy an aftermarket receiver that supports wireless CarPlay. This is quite a bit less expensive than buying a new car and lets you add technology to your current vehicle.
But, like the list of cars that support wireless CarPlay, the list of CarPlay-compatible receivers is fairly short. Here are some models that currently offer it.
Of course, the downside to this option is that you’ll need to actually install the receiver. You can pay someone else to do it or do it yourself, but it may be a fairly complex job. Also factor in the built-in features that you may be losing, such as back-up cameras.
Option 3: Use a wireless CarPlay adapter
There are a number of Android-based wireless adapters that claim to let users add wireless connectivity to their existing infotainment systems, whether CarPlay or Android Auto.
Our advice is to avoid these devices whenever possible. It’s our understanding that these devices come from a cracked version of CarPlay in China, so there are some possibly compatibility and security risks associated with them.
And while there are seemingly happy users, your own mileage may vary wildly. Do a review for the best wireless CarPlay dongles on the market and you’ll largely find a mixed bag.
Because it’s not based on an actual legitimate protocol, many users report problems with music or audio stuttering when using these off-brand adapters. Other users report a less-than-seamless connection experience that requires manually connecting via Bluetooth every time the car is started.
Of course, since many of these adapters are made by knockoff companies, there are also concerns about the longevity of them.
It’s by and far the cheapest solution. But just don’t set your expectations very high.
Some “solutions” that probably won’t work
We’ve covered some of the options that will (or may) work for adding wireless CarPlay to your vehicle. Now, let’s go over a couple of options that won’t work at all.
Waiting for a firmware upgrade
Even if your vehicle has a fancy infotainment system built-in, it’s fairly unlikely that the manufacturer of that system will add wireless CarPlay down the line.
In some cases, it may be theoretically possible for an OEM to add wireless CarPlay to an existing vehicle with a firmware update. But we don’t see any indication that manufacturers are rushing out to do so.
Then there’s the necessary hardware problem. Vehicles with infotainment systems but not an in-vehicle, dual-band Wi-Fi router won’t be able to support wireless CarPlay.
Using Qi wireless charging for CarPlay connectivity
If you look around the internet, you may find some people asking or stating that wireless CarPlay may be able to connect to an iPhone via the Qi standard.
That’s patently not true. The Qi wireless charging standard only supports the transfer of power via inductive charging. It doesn’t support data transfers.
That wireless charging pad in your car is useless for juicing up your device. But you won’t be able to connect to CarPlay using it.
My car has wireless CarPlay, how do I enable it?
If you actually own a vehicle that supports wireless CarPlay, then you don’t need to do anything except actually enable it.
Luckily, that’s a pretty easy process.
- Press and hold the voice command button on your steering wheel.
- Put your receiver into wireless or Bluetooth mode.
- Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
- Head to General.
- Tap on CarPlay.
- Then, tap on Turn On Bluetooth.
Note that these steps may vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle. For more information, check your owner’s manual.
Are you a CarPlay fan? Have you recently switched from Android Auto? Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.