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Reliable wireless Android Auto with a catch

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Carlinkit 5.0 wireless Android Auto adapter

Today, many vehicles support Android Auto, letting you project Google Maps, YouTube Music, Spotify, or whatever other apps you want to hit the road on your in-vehicle display. However, while it’s not hard to find a car that includes Android Auto, most still require you to plug your phone in with a USB cable; standard Bluetooth systems don’t have the bandwidth to pull it off, so you either need a higher-end trim with built-in Wi-Fi or a wireless Android Auto adapter to bridge the gap. That’s where the Carlinkit 5.0 comes in.



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Carlinkit 5.0

The Carlinkit 5.0 is a no-frills Android Auto adapter that brings your car’s wired Android Auto to your phone wirelessly. It works well once it’s up and running, but it’s hampered by weak documentation and an awkward firmware update process that might require you to jump through some hoops first.

Type
Android Auto adapter

Power Source
USB

Connectivity
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Dimensions
1.69 x 0.48 x 2.99 inches

Pros

  • Reliable connectivity and performance
  • Reasonably fast startup
  • Compact size
Cons

  • Confusing firmware update process
  • Poor documentation

Price and availability

The Carlinkit 5.0 is sold through the Carlinkit Store and on Amazon, where it typically retails for around $90. However, it’s not hard to find deals and coupons to cut that price down. It comes in a small, unobtrusive package that includes short USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables and a simplified instruction booklet.


Specifications

Type
Android Auto adapter

Power Source
USB

Connectivity
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Dimensions
1.69 x 0.48 x 2.99 inches

What’s good about the Carlinkit 5.0 Android Auto adapter?

Solid and reliable connectivity

Carlinkit 5.0 adapter on tan leather car seat.

As the “5.0” in the name suggests, Carlinkit isn’t exactly new to the game of building wireless smartphone projection adapters. Its first products appeared on the market several years ago to address the same issue iPhone users had with getting Apple’s CarPlay working wirelessly. Then, it took the logical next step to doing the same for Android Auto fans as that platform became more popular.

The Carlinkit 5.0 is the latest version of the company’s adapter, which embraces both the CarPlay and Android Auto platforms. That makes it an excellent choice for families that share a car between Android and iPhone users, but unlike some of the company’s other products, this one won’t convert between the two protocols. If you can’t plug your Android phone in to use wired Android Auto, the Carlinkit 5.0 can’t give it to you wirelessly.


That’s because, like most wireless Android Auto adapters we’ve tested, the Carlinkit 5.0 effectively pretends to be your phone, converting your wired connection into a wireless one. As far as your vehicle is concerned, it’s your smartphone plugged in, not the Carlinkit box.

This makes for a fairly seamless experience, and depending on your vehicle, the Carlinkit 5.0 can have your Android Auto session up and running in less than 30 seconds — about the time you should probably let your car warm up before driving off anyway.


The Carlinkit 5.0 is an unassuming little rectangular box with no external controls, just a logo that doubles as an LED status light and a USB-C and USB-A port, one on each end. However, don’t let that USB-A port on the bottom setup fool you — it’s only for firmware updates and diagnostics. It’s the USB-C port you need to use to connect to your vehicle, and the company includes both USB-C to USB-C and USB-A to USB-C cables in the box, so you should be good to go no matter which car you’re using.

Hand holding Carlinkit 5.0 in front of Nissan Rogue display and dashboard.

Once I got the Carlinkit 5.0 up and running (more on that in a moment), it’s fair to say it was basically invisible. During everyday driving around town and on a more extended four-hour road trip, Android Auto worked as efficiently as if my phone had been plugged in. This was in a 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum with a Pixel phone running Android 14; as with most of the wireless Android Auto adapters we’ve tested and researched, your mileage may vary depending on your vehicle’s infotainment system. However, my experience was seamless and trouble-free, including navigating in Google Maps, streaming music on Apple Music, and placing calls and exchanging text messages.


What’s bad about the Carlinkit 5.0 Android Auto adapter?

Poor documentation and clunky firmware updates

Carlinkit 5.0 adapter plugged in standing on car console.

While the Carlinkit 5.0 performed very well once it was up and running, getting to that stage was more complicated than I expected.

When I first plugged the adapter in, it did nothing other than light up and show up in my phone’s Bluetooth settings. I could pair it successfully, but nothing special happened after that — my vehicle didn’t detect the USB device, and my phone just saw a generic Bluetooth audio accessory with no sign of Android Auto.

I wondered for a moment if I had received a dud unit. Undaunted, I did some digging, suspecting this could be an Android 14 compatibility issue that might require a firmware update.


While the documentation provided with the Carlinkit 5.0 is a bit sparse, it does have some instructions for doing this — although it oddly includes a warning that owners should “contact customer service for version upgrade” as “self-upgrade may cause product damage!” (with the exclamation mark).

Nevertheless, the process was pretty straightforward. Once the Carlinkit 5.0 is powered up, you can connect to its Wi-Fi network — however, you’ll need to visit the website for the password as it’s not in the documentation (hint: it’s “12345678”). Once connected, you can point your browser to a private IP address to bring up the embedded web server and check for and download the update from the help screen. However, that’s still a cumbersome way of getting updates onto the device compared to alternatives like AAWireless, which offers a robust companion app on the Play Store, or the Motorola MA1, which doesn’t need these kinds of firmware updates at all (theoretically, at least).


Related

AAWireless review: Android Auto untethered

This affordable dongle will change the way you use Android Auto

You can also download an updater app directly from the manufacturer’s website in the event the web method doesn’t work. You won’t find Carlinkit’s “AutoKit” and “Autokitools” apps on the Play Store; rather, they’re APKs that need to be sideloaded, so be sure you’ve adjusted the necessary settings to allow this if you choose to go that route.

Carlinkit’s documentation and website suggest the web browser method is for iPhone users only because Android devices may not be able to access the embedded web server. However, I had no problems with this, and it seemed much simpler than downloading an app just to get the firmware up to date.

The good news is that, despite the hoops I had to jump through to get there, the update only took a few minutes to download. After that, the Carlinkit adapter rebooted and was ready to go, although I had to remove the pairing from my phone and re-add it before Android Auto kicked in.

Related

Motorola MA1 review: The best wireless Android Auto adapter

An effective way to add wireless Android Auto to your car


Should you buy it?

The biggest knock against the Carlinkit 5.0 — and Carlinkit’s products in general — is their relatively weak documentation and lack of Play Store apps. To be fair, the Carlinkit 5.0 doesn’t really need an app. However, having one on the Play Store to handle configuration and firmware updates more easily would alleviate some confusion, as would a card in the box advising a new customer to update their device immediately. It’s easy to see how some folks who had my experience would have just believed it was a defective unit and packed it back up and returned it.

Nevertheless, leaving those issues aside, the Carlinkit 5.0 works very well once it’s up and running to turn wired Android Auto into a wireless experience. It’s a no-frills adapter that gets the job done, but as with all wireless Android Auto adapters, we recommend doing some research to ensure you won’t have any problems with your particular make and model of car.

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Carlinkit 5.0 wireless Android Auto adapter

Carlinkit 5.0

Carlinkit’s “5.0” adapter delivers a solid and reliable wireless Android Auto connection in your car. However, you may need to fuss with it to get the firmware up to date before it’s ready to go. You’ll also want to do your homework to ensure your car is compatible with it.

Type
Android Auto adapter

Power Source
USB

Connectivity
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Dimensions
1.69 x 0.48 x 2.99 inches

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