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CarPlay for Older Cars

Jeffrey M Allen


  • In March 2014, Apple introduced CarPlay as a means of adding Apple connectivity to motor vehicles.
  • Apple refers to it as the “ultimate co-pilot” and describes its functionality as “a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone while you drive.
  • There are multiple ways to connect to CarPlay in both older and newer cars.
CarPlay for Older Cars
Nico De Pasquale Photography via Getty Images

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In March 2014, Apple introduced CarPlay as a means of adding Apple connectivity to motor vehicles. To say it caught on quickly would understate the situation. Many, if not most, new cars offer CarPlay now. All major vehicle manufacturers already offer or are about to offer models that come with CarPlay. To check on available models, look here on Apple’s website.

If you do not know about CarPlay, you should learn what it has to offer, especially if you have an iPhone. Apple refers to it as the “ultimate co-pilot” and describes its functionality as “a smarter, safer way to use your iPhone while you drive. You can get directions, make calls, send and receive messages, and enjoy your favorite music. All on your car’s built-in display. And CarPlay now features more app categories and custom wallpapers for your CarPlay Dashboard.” For more information about CarPlay, look here on Apple’s website. Bottom line: If you have an iPhone, you will want CarPlay, even if you already have a GPS system and a speakerphone in your car.

Now we get to the problem of the day.

If you have a newer car that comes with CarPlay connectivity, you need nothing else to connect your iPhone. Just pair it with the system and enjoy. But if you have an older car that does not come with CarPlay connectivity, you have four options:

  1. Buy a new car that has it (very expensive to just add CarPlay).
  2. Buy a new stereo/sound system that comes with CarPlay and install it (still pretty expensive, but less costly than a new car).
  3. Do without CarPlay (cheap, but disappointing).
  4. Buy an after-market device that gives you CarPlay connectivity (lots of options available for a reasonable cost).

I have a 2013 Acura RDX. It has Acura’s Technology Package and an excellent sound system. But, as it came out the year before Apple introduced CarPlay, it lacks CarPlay connectivity. I decided recently that I had lived long enough without CarPlay and that I did not want to replace the sound system in my car and wanted less to replace my car in the current market. I looked around at my options and found what appeared to provide a good choice in the APHQUA Wireless Portable Car Stereo, 7” IPS Touchscreen Car Radio Receiver ($269 at Amazon). The device comes ready for you to install yourself without tools in five to ten minutes. It mounts on the dash or your windshield. The windshield mount uses a suction cup. Unlike other suction cup mounts I have used in the past, this one seems to work really well. Mine has been on the windshield for several months without falling off once. If you choose to use the suction cup mount, I recommend that you first clean your window with a good window-cleaning solution and let it dry, then add a drop or two of water to the suction cup before installing the mount on the window. If you install the mount first and let it sit for a while prior to attaching the screen, it should work well for you. I used that process and found the results quite good.

For connectivity, it features Bluetooth and FM Transmission and can plug into the auxiliary jack on your car’s stereo (if your car’s stereo has an auxiliary jack). I used the auxiliary jack when I connected it because I think the wired connection gives me a better result. As the actual installation process will vary by vehicle, I will not go through an installation in this review. I can tell you that, including the time to unbox the device, read the instructions, connect the device to my car and my iPhone, and test it to make sure it worked, the process took about ten minutes.

The device supports both iPhone and Android phones. It not only gives you Apple Car Play but also Android Auto and Mirror Link. If you do not have a speaker phone built into your car, it gives you one. If you do not have GPS built into your car, it also gives you that. Those functionalities come as part of the basic system. The speakers in my car are better than those in the device, so I choose to use my car’s system, but the speakers in the device are certainly adequate. I like that it gives you the choice. The navigation system that it uses comes through your iPhone. It offers a second option of directions presentation to the one your car has. I use both. I have discovered that if my car’s GPS does not have a particular street or address (it happens from time to time), the phone’s navigation system does, and it transfers nicely to the APHQUA. If you do not have a backup camera for your car (a very handy safety feature), you can add one and connect it to the APHQUA. In fact, APHQUA sells its own as part of an upgraded kit.

The 7” touch screen gives you a clear and crisp display, and the touch screen works well. The only downside I can find for the unit is that it adds a display to my car that takes up some windshield space. In the case of my car, it gives me a second display. On the other hand, my wife liked it so much that she wanted one for her car. Her Jeep did not have a display, a speaker phone, or a GPS system, so she hit the jackpot and now has all of them in her car. She is thinking of adding the backup camera as well.

The device powers through the automobile auxiliary power outlet (formerly known as the cigarette lighter) in your car. Most older cars come with only one of those. If your car has only one, you might want to invest in a multiple-plug device that plugs into the outlet and gives you two or three receptacles. That way, you can plug the APHQUA in and still have the ability to connect a charger for your phone.

I am quite pleased with the acquisition and feel very comfortable recommending it to you. You might want to check to make sure that your car will be able to connect to it prior to getting it. I would expect that because it has an FM transmitter capability, any car that has an FM radio would work, even if it lacked Bluetooth connectivity and an auxiliary jack for the sound system. If you do not have any of those connection options, it will probably not work for you.

Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This review should not be construed as an endorsement.