Why Some CarPlay Isn’t Wireless – by Brad from LA

As a follow up to the Chit Chat Across the Pond episode #605 on wireless Carplay with Sandy Foster, I wanted to provide information regarding why wireless Carplay is not more widespread. As was pointed out in the episode, almost all new cars that have Carplay support offer only wired CarPlay. Until recently only BMW offered wireless CarPlay although some Audi’s and Mini’s have it now and Mercedes claims they will have it soon. For most people, the only options for wireless CarPlay are aftermarket solutions like the Alpine ILX-107 (which I own).

I believe the main reason wireless CarPlay is not widespread, is that wireless Carplay units are significantly more expensive to produce and purchase. For one thing, wireless Carplay requires both Bluetooth and Wifi. The Bluetooth connection is merely used to perform the initial handshake between the iPhone and the Car stereo (aka the infotainment system to the younger listeners of the podcast). The actual transmission of data and graphics is performed via Wifi. Indeed, the bandwidth needs for Carplay are great enough that it requires a dual-band wifi chip. So a wireless Carplay stereo requires this additional chip which a wired unit, even with Bluetooth, does not.

Further, the additional hardware requirements do not stop there. According to an August 15th 2019 USA today article, wifi transmissions can interfere with GPS transmissions. Therefore wireless CarPlay needs the use of an external antenna (and supporting electronics) to assist in the GPS connection for a robust experience. With wired CarPlay the use of an external antenna is optional. Although I am not certain of the veracity of the statements regarding Wifi and GPS interfering with each other, I did find some videos and a slide except from WWDC 2016 where Apple indicates that external antenna support is required for wireless CarPlay only.

Anyway, these two items together mean additional cost for both parts and testing needed of wireless CarPlay units as opposed to wired Carplay. As a testament to this fact, I typically see wireless Carplay units selling for twice the price of non-wireless units. Indeed, the ILX-107 cost me $600.00 whereas I could have bought a wired unit for only $300.00. I believe it this additional cost and complexity that have made most car manufacturers opt to go with wired for now.

On a side note: I have found, contrary to some people’s claims, that wireless cpl does NOT use extensive power. Indeed my one hour commute to work with heavy Carplay usage results in about 5% use of the battery.

Anyway, Allison, I love the show and appreciate the time you and Bart spend on these episodes.

Fellow NosillaCastaway,
Brad from Los Angeles

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