CarPlay can connect to your vehicle’s media system in two ways: via Apple’s Lightning cable or wirelessly using Bluetooth or WiFi.
While both methods effectively perform the same function, there are some essential differences between the two.
So which should you pick?
Wireless CarPlay provides the most convenient and seamless CarPlay experience. However, a wired connection is more reliable, offers better playback quality, is usually cheaper, and drains less battery. You should pick between the two depending on which of these factors is a priority for you.
In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of wireless CarPlay vs wired so you can make the best decision for your needs.
The pros and cons of wired CarPlay are very similar to the pros and cons of wired connections on any device.
Wired connections usually provide more stable and reliable links.
Often, they also allow you to transfer data faster or at higher speeds.
Of course, a few additional aspects to consider with a phone-to-car connection.
Pros of Wired CarPlay
- Charge your iPhone while driving. While many newer cars come equipped with wireless CarPlay, there are still some benefits to using a wired connection. For one, you can charge your iPhone while using CarPlay, so you won’t have to worry about your battery flatlining on the road.
- More reliable than a wireless connection. With a wired connection, you don’t have to worry about losing your connection or having spotty service with a wired connection. Wired connections are also generally faster than wireless connections, so you’ll be able to get the most out of your CarPlay system.
- Fewer bugs. There are fewer bugs when using a wired connection. When you’re not relying on a wireless connection, there’s one less potential point of failure. Additionally, you’re less likely to experience audio dropouts or other issues.
Cons of Wired CarPlay
- Can prove inconvenient. Wired CarPlay needs a phone to be plugged into a car’s media system. Finding a spot that won’t block your view or be a distraction can be difficult, especially in smaller vehicles. Moreover, someone sitting in a rear seat may not be able to access the phone when it’s plugged in.
Personally, I would recommend sticking to the wired carplay experience unless you frequently travel short journeys when you are getting in and out of a vehicle.
See my top recommendation for the best Carplay charging cord, to get the best expice using this method.
Again, wireless Carplay has identical drawbacks to wireless connections elsewhere.
They rely on good data connections, and both devices must function correctly.
For this reason, wireless connections are usually much more glitchy than wired connections.
Additionally, many CarPlay owners rely on wireless CarPlay adapters for this to work, which doesn’t always play nice, because they’re third-party accessories.
Pros of Wireless CarPlay
- Convenience of movement. With wireless Carplay, a connection gets automatically established as soon as your iPhone gets in range of your car’s media system, meaning you can just get in and go. You do not have to plug in your phone or find a suitable place for it every time you start your vehicle.
- Eliminates the need for a cable. Wireless CarPlay removes the need for a cable. You won’t have to buy a cable to use CarPlay this way or spend money replacing any damaged, faulty, or misplaced cables. It also offers a much neater look to your car’s interior.
*This is once a connection is already made with the CarliKit adapter.
Cons of Wireless CarPlay
- Difficult to set up and often unreliable. Wireless CarPlay has a few notable cons. The setup process can be pretty tedious, as you must pair your phone with the car’s infotainment system, often more than once, if not every time you use your vehicle. Additionally, the connection often drops out, or CarPlay doesn’t work correctly. This can be incredibly frustrating if you’re in the middle of using a map or listening to music.
- Input delay or lag and other signal issues. Although this problem will be fixed soon, many users have complained about a noticeable input delay when using wireless CarPlay. This is because the signal has to travel from your phone to the car’s receiver, adding some lag. There’s also the possibility of interference from public Wi-Fi and cellular signals. This is often reported for wireless CarPlay audio quality.
- Drains battery faster. Using CarPlay wirelessly not only means your phone is not charging when in use, but it can also drain your battery faster. It makes it more likely that you end up with a drained battery without realizing it.
If you haven’t already got wireless CarPlay in your vehicle, see my guide to wireless CarPlay.
Wireless CarPlay vs Wired Sound Quality
A common debate among audiophiles is whether wireless CarPlay offers the same sound quality as wired CarPlay. It turns out there are minor differences in CarPlay capabilities between the two.
The main difference is that wired CarPlay supports lossless audio, while wireless CarPlay does not.
Lossless audio means that the audio is not compressed, so it retains its full quality.
The difference in sound quality between the two is minimal, but it is noticeable to some people. Of course, sound quality also depends on other factors, such as car speakers.
Is Wireless CarPlay More Expensive than Wired?
While Wireless CarPlay is undoubtedly convenient, it comes at a price.
Sometimes it is built into the car stereo system, but in most cases, it is more expensive than the traditional wired CarPlay.
This is because it requires compatible adapters and special hardware to work.
So if you’re looking to save money, you may want to stick with the wired option, which usually only cast around $20 if you haven’t already got one.
Wired CarPlay vs Wireless: What Should I Pick?
If sound quality is your main concern, wired CarPlay is the way to go. However, if you value convenience, you may prefer wireless CarPlay. While it may require a little more work to set up, it makes for the most seamless CarPlay experience. The one caveat is if you travel longer journeys, it is probably worth sticking to a wired connection.
There are clear advantages and disadvantages to both wireless and wired CarPlay.
Pick the option for you based on your needs and priorities.