A couple of months ago I bought a 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander. This has a top spec multimedia unit in every respect except it does not have wireless CarPlay. Ironically, lower spec models without the fancy satnav come with wireless CarPlay. But I digress.
I am already quite used to wireless CarPlay having installed a very nice Kenwood wireless CarPlay aftermarket unit in my 2011 Mazda. Love it. But an aftermarket head unit is not an option for the vast majority of modern cars, including the Santa Fe. Plugging an iPhone in every time is just annoying once you are used to wireless CarPlay, and for the Santa Fe, you end up with this annoying USB cable sticking up, forcing you to open the cover where the CarPlay port is located, looping over to where the vertical wireless charger is located, as in the picture below:
Anyway, I looked around to see if I can find a wifi dongle that would trick the Hyundai into thinking an iPhone was connected to it. There are a few options, CarPlay2Air was probably the first, then Carlinkit, then JoyeAuto. No doubt there are others. I bought the second generation CarlinKit 2.0, which is a bit smaller and quicker to pair than the first gen, for USD$99 on sale, about AUD$139. It also has a disconnectable cable, which for my set up was also important.
Set up is easy, you plug it into your car’s CarPlay USB port, and it will take over the multimedia screen. It will ask to pair an iPhone via Bluetooth, and once paired, switch to wifi. You just need a bit of patience for it to connect. Thereafter, it will first try to connect to whichever iPhone was last used, or if it isn’t in range, the nearest iPhone previously connected.
In comparison to the Kenwood wireless carplay aftermarket unit in my old Mazda, the CarLinkit takes a bit longer to pair off with the iPhone after engine start. The Kenwood takes about 20 seconds, the CarLinkit about 30 secs. So start up, back out of the garage, drive a full block and the Carlinkit will hook up while the Kenwood does it in half a block. A fair compromise for the greatly added convenience of wireless CarPlay. It also takes a few seconds longer if another iPhone was previously linked.
For those wondering the carlinkit 2.0 will pair up with at least five iPhones. I don’t know if it will do more as that is how many are in the family. It is quite reliable, mostly. Occasionally, like about three times in the last month over multiple journeys totalling 5000km it needs unplugging and plugging back in to solve a glitch. The old turn it off and on again trick.
The only other thing I did was change the cable to a short cable with a right angle connector so it will tuck neatly into the well where the wireless charger is located, all neat and out of sight.
Overall the CarLinkit 2.0 is well worth the money IMHO for anyone with a CarPlay head unit that does not have wireless CarPlay. If you are worried about compatibility, the CarLinkit store has a comprehensive list of compatible vehicles.
And it makes everything look better too