A Guide To Buying and Using an External CarPlay Unit

buying and using an external carplay unit - featured image

CarPlay brings the Apple experience to your car, so you can make and receive calls, play music, navigate, and much more, all while driving.

Unfortunately, CarPlay is unavailable in all vehicles and is limited to some countries, but you can connect an external Apple CarPlay unit if your car’s stereo system lacks stock support for CarPlay or don’t want the hassle of a hard install.

When buying an external CarPlay unit, check for the feature you need. These units come with features like wireless or wired connections, touch screens, and back cameras. To use an external CarPlay unit, you just need to mount it, then connect it to your car and to your Apple device. 

This article gives you all you need to know about buying and using external Apple CarPlay units, including some top recommendations.

Is There a Portable Apple CarPlay Unit?

There are portable external Apple CarPlay units. They have easy DIY installation processes and function as effectively as an inbuilt Apple CarPlay unit. You can place them on your windscreen or dashboard. Sort of like having an iPad in your car!

For vehicles without CarPlay support, several CarPlay-enabled aftermarket stereo head units are available at different price points. But you’ll first remove your old stereo system.

Size and compatibility issues will become primary concerns here.

A portable Apple CarPlay external display saves you the stress of finding a matching size and compatible CarPlay-enabled head unit.

Additionally, not all Apple CarPlay monitors need to be plugged in.

Most external units have the option to be used with both a USB cable and wireless CarPlay connection, so they are flexible. 

Choosing an External CarPlay Unit

Before buying an external CarPlay unit, some considerations are important.

Choose A Size That Fits You and Your Car

Apple CarPlay monitors come in different sizes, ranging from 3.5 – 9 inches. Bigger screens would cost more, but they are best for larger cars.

Usage also applies here. Many people use their external CarPlay units for music and phone calls. A small-sized CarPlay external display would meet this purpose. However, if you intend to use navigation apps, you should get a bigger screen.

tomtom go carplay - navigation screen 2

Consider the Features You Need

External Apple CarPlay extends your iPhone to a larger screen for more comfort while driving. However, not all units have the same features. 

Here are some of the features in external Apple CarPlay units:

  • Android Auto: Some external Apple CarPlay units also support Android Auto. It’s a nice option to have for those who have Android devices or will have friends that want to connect.


  • Wireless and USB CarPlay Connections: Most people would do with a wireless connection – too many wires can be inconvenient. But many external CarPlay units can support this.


  • Touchscreen: External CarPlay units come with two types of touchscreens – capacitive and resistive touchscreens. While capacitive touchscreens are super sensitive, resistive touchscreens require you to apply some pressure.


  • Camera: Some portable units feature a back camera. You can capture or make a video while driving. This option would excite tourists.


How To Use an External Apple CarPlay Head Display

An external CarPlay unit is easy to set up and use. Three steps are involved, from unboxing to using an external Apple CarPlay unit.

  • Mounting the external CarPlay unit
  • Connecting the external CarPlay unit to your car
  • Connecting the external CarPlay unit to your iOS device

Mount Your External Apple CarPlay Anywhere on Your Dashboard

It’s easy to set up your external Apple CarPlay. You can position it anywhere you like on your dashboard using a mounting bracket or suction cup to hold it in position.

It will rest securely in place until you remove it.

Removing the external unit is just as easy as mounting it if you want to use it in another vehicle. Making it great for hired vehicles or users worried about their stereo being stolen.

Connect the External Apple CarPlay Unit to Your Car

With your external CarPlay unit firmly in position, plug in the power cord to the cigarette lighter port.

Many external Apple CarPlay units lack an inbuilt speaker, so you’ll have to connect to your vehicle’s speaker system.

To accomplish this, tune the radio on the external device to the same frequency as the car radio. The sound will then play over the car’s audio system.

Connect Your Apple Device to Your External Apple CarPlay Unit

forget car network - fix carplay microphone not working

*Image is of a home Wifi connection, but the process is the same. It was too cold outside 🙂

You can now connect your Apple device to your external CarPlay unit. External CarPlay units have options for wireless and non-wireless connections.

Pair your phone’s Bluetooth with the external CarPlay unit for a wireless connection, this will then switch to a wifi connection.

For a non-wireless connection, use a USB cord. Some external units provide both options, while others only allow wireless connections.

Recommended External Apple CarPlay Head Units

With several options in the market, it’s easy to get confused. Here are three external Apple CarPlay units worth mentioning.

Car And Driver Intellidash Pro

The Car and Driver Intellidash Pro is another excellent external Apple CarPlay unit. It also features a 7-inch clean display with wireless and non-wireless connection options.

The Car and Driver Intellidash Pro is easy to install on your car with several mounting options. It also has Android Auto and comes with an inbuilt speaker and FM Radio.

However, you may want to stick with your car’s audio as the inbuilt speaker of the Car and Driver Intellidash Pro leaves much to be desired.

Coral Vision CarPlay Head Unit

The Coral Vision CarPlay Head unit is a feature-rich external CarPlay unit. It has a 7-inch IPS screen with excellent display quality.

The Coral Vision external unit also supports Android Auto and provides wireless and non-wireless connection options.

It stands out for its inbuilt speaker with premium sound quality. However, you can still connect to your car’s speaker using an AUX cable.

One disadvantage of the Coral Vision Console is that Siri’s talk volume is low, so you may struggle to hear clearly.

Also, Siri doesn’t always capture your speech, or it does so incorrectly, so you might have to repeat yourself.

See the full Coral Vision CarPlay review here.


Carpuride Portable CarPlay and Android Auto

The selling point for the Carpuride CarPlay is the large 9-inch adaptive display which should suit more spacious cars. The screen’s adaptive feature ensures the display’s brightness automatically adjusts to ambient light changes.

It also features connectivity options for wireless and non-wireless connections. Android Auto is included with Google Assistant, ready to help with tasks while you drive. 

Final Thoughts

With an external Apple CarPlay unit, you can still enjoy CarPlay even if your car’s stereo system doesn’t support it.

There are several brands in the market with options for wireless and non-wireless connections.

External CarPlay units are portable and easy to set up.

Some models have inbuilt speakers, eliminating the need for an AUX cable.

Picture of Alex
I loved my car but was frustrated with my media system. So I upgraded my stereo, making silly wires and precarious phone mounts a thing of the past. The Apple Car Play stereo was so good I wanted to show more people how this could be done and truly upgrade their cars multimedia system! Founder StereoUpgrade.com
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