If the multimedia system in the car only supports wired Apple CarPlay, there is a remedy in the form of a small box from “Carlinkit”. The box is connected to the car’s USB port via cable instead of the user’s own iPhone, accepts a wireless CarPlay connection from the iPhone and passes it on to the car bluntly. This works surprisingly well.
Carlinkit’s box costs around 100€ at the time of this article’s publication. For this amount, it promises to make any wired CarPlay “wireless” – which means an enormous gain in convenience for the user, since the phone does not have to be connected to the car via cable before use, but connects wirelessly to the car’s multimedia system as soon as the journey begins.
We tested the small box in 4 different vehicles:
- 2020 Mercedes E-Class
- 2017 Mini Clubman
- 2020 Land Rover Defender
- Motorhome with retrofitted Sony moniceiver
In our test, the box immediately worked without any problems in the aforementioned vehicles.
Depending on which vehicle we connected the box to, the box apparently recognized the vehicle because the box changed its Bluetooth name depending on which vehicle was connected.
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Only with the retrofitted Sony receiver the box did not work. We can only assume that it is because the box could not find the car manufacturer “Sony” in its built-in database and therefore could not pass the data of the iPhone in a suitable format to the car radio.
The connection is established reliably and quickly directly when the vehicles are started. Playback of music, for example, starts immediately. In comparison with a 2020 BMW 7 Series, the Wireless CarPlay of the “Carlinkit” box is in no way inferior to the original BMW CarPlay.
Once the connection is established, it has always been stable in our tests.
In our eyes, the usability is robust, although not 100% user-friendly due to partly missing translations. This is not noticeable in everyday use. Every user should be able to connect the box with the car and their own iPhone with the box without needing instructions.
However, the box has an integrated update mechanism. Presumably, the box downloads new vehicle data to ensure compatibility with new vehicles or changed vehicle software. If your iPhone is connected to the WLAN of the “Carlinkit” box, calling up the IP address of the box via a web interface allows you to update the box. The interface is in English, but sometimes a confirmation button has Chinese characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as you can guess what the buttons are for in the context of the update.
You may have to start the update process several times in a row, because the updates have to be performed one after the other (incrementally) until the final version.
The update process itself is cleverly designed: To ensure that the iPhone still reaches the update server via the Internet despite the WLAN connection to the “Carlinkit” box, the iPhone is automatically set to data-saving mode when it connects to the box, which automatically routes the consumer traffic to the Internet via the iPhone’s cellular interface. This works amazingly well and reliably and is not even implemented this well by some well-known manufacturers of other IoT products like cameras or smart home devices. These implemented processes and mechanisms already speak for a carefully constructed device.
If you already have Wired CarPlay in your car, you have a very good chance of retrofitting real “Wireless CarPlay” with the box from “Carlinkit”. At €100, this retrofit is not nearly as expensive as retrofitting the entire vehicle at the manufacturer, if at all possible.
The box itself and the software running on it is robust and should not overwhelm tech-savvy users.
We can recommend this device and we would buy it again.