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What's up with wireless Apple CarPlay?

iPhone functionality comes to your dash without a wired connection

Apple Carplay goes wireless

Apple CarPlay® performance with wireless convenience

After months of speculation, the first wireless CarPlay receiver finally hit the scene. The Alpine iLX-107 digital media receiver began shipping in the summer of 2017. It doesn't have a CD player but it does boast a built-in Wi-Fi network, which it uses in combination with Bluetooth to communicate with your iPhone. After the initial setup and pairing with your phone, you'll be able to launch CarPlay on the stereo without touching your phone as soon as you get into your vehicle.

And now, more than a year later, there are even more stereos that offer this feature: 

[Check out our full selection of aftermarket stereos with wireless Apple CarPlay]

Editor's note: The above was an update to our original speculation about wireless Apple CarPlay. We've preserved those thoughts below, in case you want to hear what we had to say back then. But if you don't read any further...you're not missing much. Instead, I suggest you go read our article about the basics of Apple CarPlay – what it is and how to get it


Ever since it debuted in early 2014, Apple CarPlay® has been a pretty big deal for car audio-loving iPhone enthusiasts across America. At first, CarPlay compatibility was only available in select Ferrari models, but over time it popped up in other factory stereos. When Pioneer became the first company to introduce CarPlay in their aftermarket stereos, we got really excited.

It’s been several years since CarPlay entered the aftermarket realm. It’s been a boon for many drivers who love its ability to let them use the main functions and apps on their iPhones in a road-friendly manner. Yet, some people have been wondering when a wireless version will be available.

[See all of our aftermarkert stereos with Apple CarPlay]

Normally, CarPlay requires a USB-to-Lightning cable connection between the iPhone and the receiver. No Bluetooth® connection or other wireless method of data transfer is involved. When Alpine rolled out their first digital media receiver built specifically for use with CarPlay, the lack of Bluetooth was one of the qualms that people had with it. (Editor's note: Don't worry...they got the memo.)

Rumors have been circulating about wireless CarPlay since the software was included in the initial iteration of iOS 9. So far, there has not been any official hardware (i.e., car stereos) which will work with wireless CarPlay. Everything at this point is still speculative. But we thought it would be fun to imagine what wireless CarPlay might be like.

How would it work?

Without a wired connection, the data transfer between the iPhone and receiver would have to happen via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi®, some combination of the two, or another wireless technology altogether. It seems Bluetooth alone would not be robust enough to transmit large amounts of data between the two devices. This is important so that the stereo can display maps in a timely fashion. That's one of the key benefits of using CarPlay. Bluetooth should work for displaying album artwork, incoming messages, playlists, and songs from an iPhone, but maps will likely require something a little stronger, like Wi-Fi.

If Wi-Fi is involved, then it would have to be built into the receiver. There are only a handful of receivers on the market with Wi-Fi capability right now, and they’re not exactly a bargain. It would be interesting to see what stereo manufacturers think consumers are willing to pay for that just to avoid plugging in their iPhones. On the plus side, Wi-Fi can be really fast if done correctly, which could be great news for audiophiles.

Could it sound great?

If this hypothetical wireless CarPlay receiver depends on Bluetooth for transmitting music between the iPhone and the stereo, then sound quality probably won’t be as good as the present iteration of wired CarPlay. While Bluetooth technology has evolved over the years, it still depends on compression to get data from one device to another. That compression ultimately causes most musical information to suffer in some noticeable way.

However, if Wi-Fi is involved, then there might not be a noticeable loss in sound quality. Wi-Fi can move a lot of data quickly, and one can expect MP3s and AAC (iTunes standard) files to sound about the same as they do through a wired connection. High-resolution lossless music files — such as Apple Lossless (ALAC) — could possibly stream from the phone to the receiver without any loss in quality, depending on a number of factors. This would certainly make wireless CarPlay worth considering for critical listeners.

Would wireless CarPlay really be that much more convenient?

A lot of people don’t think that taking a couple of seconds to connect an iPhone to a stereo with a Lightning cable is a big deal. However, for commuters who have to make multiple stops on short- to medium-length trips, wireless CarPlay could make a world of difference.

Wireless CarPlay with automated pairing would mean that you could leave your phone in your pocket the entire trip, and still access your maps, messages, songs, and podcasts through your stereo. It might not mean much to everyone, but there are certainly a lot of people for whom it would be worth the investment.

So where is wireless CarPlay?

Like we said, people have been asking about wireless CarPlay since its wired debut. We’ve heard the rumors about wireless receivers popping up at various trade shows, but don’t have any official word at this time. Apple’s been busy with the iPhone 7 for the past few months, but now that that’s out, maybe we’ll see some substantial news in the near future. After all, they decided to go wireless with their headphones, so maybe CarPlay is the next logical step. Watch this space for any further developments.

  • Elliott

    Posted on 3/9/2021

    Are there any differences in sound quality, latency, etc. between USB CarPlay and wireless CarPlay?

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 3/10/2021

    Hi Elliott - thanks for your question. We at Crutchfield haven't attempted any sort of side-by-side listening comparisons to see what sonic differences (if any) there are between wireless and USB CarPlay. One thing I can share with you is the answer we got from Alpine when their wireless CarPlay receiver was first introduced and we asked about the data transfer over Wi-Fi vs. a wired connection: All data (including music files) are being transferred via Wi-Fi for the wireless CarPlay unit. Bandwidth on the ad hoc Wi-Fi connection is enough to experience little to no loss from what the phone decodes. Basically, if you were to compare the data transfer via USB vs. the data transfer via Wi-Fi, there is no difference.
    I don't know if this will be much help to you, but I do want to remind you that we offer a 60-day return policy so you can try out a receiver for yourself to see if it's right for you. If you have any further questions, contact an Advisor via chat or phone and they'll be happy to have a discussion with you about the ins and outs of CarPlay.
  • Jason Tran from Farmington

    Posted on 11/16/2019

    Where are you suppose to connect the pink s sensor (speed sensor) wire that is required to allow wireless apple car play to work while vehicle is in motion.

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 11/18/2019

    Hi Jason - thanks for your question. Unfortunately, there's no generic answer for locating and tapping into the VSS wire, as it varies from vehicle to vehicle. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help finding the VSS in your car. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • Peter from East Islip

    Posted on 10/29/2019

    Is there anyway to improve the sound quality when playing music through apple car play. I find that the sound quality of my Sirius radio is far better than my usb connected iPhone 7 through car play. I have a 2017 Ridgeline, kept the stock head unit, but added new speakers all around and added a subwoofer. I'm very disappointed with the overall sound quality of carplay.

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 10/30/2019

    Hi Peter - Sorry to hear that your listening experience isn't up to par. Without knowing much about your Ridgeline stock stereo, it's hard to say what exactly the issue might be. Poking around a bit online, it seems that some people in various forums have discovered that CarPlay will revert back the stock stereo's default EQ settings in certain vehicles. It might be possible to adjust the EQ in your Ridgeline by hitting the stereo's "Menu" button while in CarPlay mode, but perhaps not. If you're still having trouble, I would recommend searching out advice on a Ridgeline owners forum online.
  • Joseph G Wozniak from Aurora

    Posted on 9/10/2019

    When using wireless Carplay, I see that you cannot connect another apple product (ipod/second iphone) to usb until you disconnect Carplay. However, can you simply charge your friends phone via usb? I understand that only one can be connected for data transfer, but how about just charging a device?

    Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    on 9/11/2019

    Hi Joseph - The answer may vary from stereo to stereo. Most aftermarket stereos with wireless CarPlay compatibility also offer two USB inputs and generally one of those inputs is dedicated for a wired CarPlay connection, so it seems likely that if you are using wireless CarPlay with one iPhone, you could plug in a second phone to the non-CarPlay dedicated USB input for charging purposes without any issues. But again, it may depend on the stereo and the order in which the devices are connected. It may also be complicated by whether or not the stereo also supports Android Auto and if the second phone is an Android device or something else altogether.
  • Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/28/2019

    Good luck pitching your idea to Apple, David! And thanks for your business.

  • David P. Falls from Salem

    Posted on 3/28/2019

    I bought a very nice Kenwood Excelon DDR unit from you a little over a year ago. It has both Android Auto and Car Play. I would like to buy a Qi charger stand and have the Car Play done wirelessly. The adapter would itself provide WiFi and Bluetooth to the phone... The iPhone would see IT as a receiver supporting wireless Car Play. The adapter would pass info directly to the receiver from the phone... So the receiver would think it was talking to the iPhone. In hacking analogy, I am talking about a method similar to a man in the middle attack. This should be doable. I am not sure if or how that connection is encrypted, but since the adapter would present itself to the phone as a receiver and to the receiver as an iPhone, even that shouldn't be an issue. It would be easiest for Apple to build such an adapter and I will suggest it to them.

  • Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/11/2018

    Hi Justin - Great question. I asked Alpine (who were the first to get wireless CarPlay to the aftermarket field) about this and here's what they said:
    All data (including music files) are being transferred via Wi-Fi for the wireless CarPlay unit. Bandwidth on the ad hoc Wi-Fi connection is enough to experience little to no loss from what the phone decodes. Basically, if you were to compare the data transfer via USB vs. the data transfer via Wi-Fi, there is no difference.
    It should be noted, however, that if the stereo does not play high-resolution (anything over 16-bit/44kHz) audio files from a USB or wired connection, it also won't play them wirelessly. It will likely be able to play the the format as decoded by the phone, but you may not be getting the full hi-res effect from the file once it goes through the stereo. One of our advisors will be happy to help you choose if you have any further questions.

  • Justin Garrett from Mount Pleasant

    Posted on 10/9/2018

    Hi Dominic, Can you explain how audio streaming takes place via wireless CarPlay? Is it lossy e.g. bluetooth or is it lossless transmission or the original file? Assume the original file is a lossless recording to eliminate confusion. I would not be interested in wireless carplay if it sacrifices sound quality. Thank you, Justin

  • David from Wilsonville

    Posted on 4/25/2018

    I think the bigger gain is on phones with wireless charging. I can just pop my phone into a charging mount without having to line up connectors and get both carplay and charging. No connectors to wear out or get outdated.

  • Commenter image

    Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/24/2018

    Hi Ivan - I can honestly say I haven't heard about any new wireless CarPlay stereos coming in the near future from any manufacturer. The licensing process for Apple seems to be fairly deliberate, so the head unit manufacturers (and retailers and consumers) have very little choice but to wait.