Android Auto is now a common feature in cars today, but not all of them give you that wirelessly. AAW wireless was one of the first to handle this in the aftermarket, initially starting as an Indiegogo campaign and now easily available online. Its premise has always been very simple: Use your phone with Android Auto without connecting any cables.
Compact and easy to set up, the device delivers in situ for those who like to keep it simple, but also adds additional features and tweaks to ensure more tech-savvy drivers have access to workarounds should things not work as they should.
AAW wireless: price and availability
AAW wireless first came to market as part of a crowdfunding campaign in 2020, and its success has expanded its online availability through Amazon and its website. The price of $90 has remained stable, and swings are not uncommon, unless there is a promotion or sale. As competition grows in this space, price drops can always happen.
AAW wireless: what’s good
For a long time, AAW wireless has been a tough product to get hold of, especially in 2021 when Indiegogo backers got their hands on the first batches before anyone else could see what the fuss was about. When it was first introduced in 2020, the idea behind it was not only new, but absolutely necessary.
Automakers were incorporating wireless charging pads into their cars, while consumer electronics vendors were making all kinds of wireless charging cradles and mounts. With very few exceptions, the problem was that you could only use Android Auto if you connected your phone to the car stereo system.
Although wireless connectivity is growing in new cars, many people simply don’t have that option. Same with those who use aftermarket head units, as I do. Setting up AAW wireless was a fairly easy process because the AAW wireless app was guiding me through every step. If you’re not sure how to enable Android Auto wireless on your phone, the app includes a handy tutorial to take care of that. Including the firmware update from the start, I was up and running in less than 10 minutes.
There really isn’t much to it. Plug the dongle into the correct USB port, it will flash green, and once paired with your phone, the LED will turn blue to indicate a strong connection. There were some hiccups along the way, though, and it wasn’t all smooth sailing, like how it took three attempts to finally download and install the firmware.
It’s a small device – like a big box of matches – and very lightweight. Depending on where your USB port is, you may be able to get away with hiding it in the center console or any other corner of the cabin. I didn’t have that luxury, so I tried to improvise, which I’ll touch on later.
Once Android Auto appears, it will work as if you were connected. I noticed some interesting functional issues along the way, one of which involved starting the car. Basically, if I use the phone for anything when starting the car, whether that’s sending a text or checking a restaurant rating, the AAW wireless dongle will try to connect, only to abort each time. The Android Auto interface didn’t appear until after I stopped and turned off the phone.
Although the app does not address this particular case, it is full of workarounds for other potential challenges that may arise.
GM Fix addresses an issue where on some GM vehicles the head unit sometimes restarts due to unstable pairing with the phone. VAG Crash does the same for Volkswagen and Skoda cars. Disabling Media Sink will play audio through your phone’s speaker instead of your car stereo if you need to do so. Disabling passthrough means you can mess around a bit more, like adjusting the DPI (dots per inch) displayed, removing tap restrictions, and more.
Removing tap restrictions removes Google’s restrictions on the amount of tap or swipe screen for certain apps. If you’ve ever tried to scroll through a playlist on Spotify, you know what I mean. The only problem with enabling it is that it can bring up errors, like tracking dodgy location on Google Maps, for example.
The important part is that if you want to leave it as is, the dongle just works. When Android Auto came out, I could use the apps, talk to the Google Assistant, and search for points of interest as if I was connected to do all that. Latency is not an issue when you do all of these things, which is why this setup is a lot like plugging in a phone.
I also love that AAW wireless makes it easy to pair more than one phone. This is great if you’ve upgraded to a new device or if your partner wants to connect as well. You’ll need to keep the original phone away and turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to do this, as well as go through all the initial steps to set it up, including downloading the app on the second phone.
As of this review, there is no easy way to switch between the two phones. The dongle will always look for the connection to the last phone you set it up on, and when it can’t find it, it then switches to the other phone. So while it’s pretty cool to have more than one phone, the functionality after that isn’t quite as smooth yet.
AAW wireless: What’s not so good
AAW wireless does come with an adhesive pad to stick it wherever you want on the dashboard. I ended up using the device that came with the Motorola MA1, but since this one isn’t very good, this dongle fell at the same rate as it did. You can use double-sided tape or another solution, but that’s entirely up to you.
You mentioned buggy connections when starting the car, and this was where I saw the most inconsistency. There have been times when Android Auto appears on my screen after only 10 seconds, while in others it took more than 90 seconds. Why this discrepancy? I have no idea. I asked Emil Borconi, the guy who developed the AAW wireless, and I assumed it was probably because I turned on power saving features, like battery saver mode. I didn’t, so that can’t be the case.
Could it be because I was calling the Pioneer AVH-2300NEX head unit instead of one factory automaker? It’s hard to tell, given the difference in timing, but you may or may not experience something similar once you start your car.
Offloading your phone with AAW wireless doesn’t mean your phone is completely unlocked. The wireless setup harnesses the phone’s resources, and as such, sips battery life at a faster rate. You’re fine if you plug in or use a wireless charger for your car, which is something I’d really recommend on long drives. A short trip to do a mission won’t be a problem, but if you’re commuting or on the road, make sure the phone is charged somewhere.
You may also notice that your phone runs hotter if you charge it at the same time as running Android Auto wirelessly. I’ve never had any overheating issues but it was something I noticed as to how the phone would feel if I was running the platform with a standard wired connection.
AAW wireless: competition
There is a growing number of Dongles and tools to enable wireless Android Auto Connectivity in almost every car that you don’t offer otherwise. The Motorola MA1 It is one of the most notable, although it doesn’t include a dedicated app to tweak features or troubleshoot potential compatibility issues the way AAW wireless works.
Others, like my chair And the Carlinket 4.0Follow similar design principles that AAW wireless does, with Carsifi, in particular, including a physical button to switch between paired phones.
AAW wireless: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if…
- You want Android Auto wireless
- You are driving a car with no other choice but wired Android Auto
- Want to charge your phone wirelessly
- Want app support for tweaks and troubleshooting
You should not buy this if…
- You’re okay with plugging in to run Android Auto
- You don’t have a wireless charger
- Not sure where to put it
Running Android Auto wireless feels liberating, especially if you’ve never tried it before. AAW wireless has always focused on delivering that, and saving some potential compatibility issues the app is trying to correct, this little dongle does the job. The app also having firmware updates enabled means there’s room for improvement whenever that happens.
Despite its stature, you may need to know where to put it, but it shouldn’t be a deal breaker when you get so much of this device.
AAW wireless made a statement right from the start by freeing up Android phones to run Android Auto without connecting it. Easy to set up, and with an app to make and update, it’s a neat dongle to keep in your car.
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