Android Auto is a real boon for users who want to use the apps on their phone in the car, without the associated risk of touching their phone while driving. Having to plug your phone in can be a pain though, with dead or faulty cables often a problem. This is where the Motorola MA1 wireless Android Auto adapter comes in.
I’ve used wireless Android Auto dongles before and come away fairly impressed. The last option was great but Motorola, in partnership with SGW Global is the first well known brand to put their name behind a wireless Android Auto dongle.
The Motorola MA1, announced on-sale in Australia earlier this month, supports the more than 500 car models which support Android Auto, though most of these models require a cable to connect the phone to the stereo. The MA1 just makes it possible, and easy to go wireless.
Selling in Australia for $159, the Motorola MA1 is a far cheaper option than a new head unit, fascia and all the install costs normally associated with swapping your stereo – as well as on-going cable replacements for the inevitably faulty cables that break.
I’ve been using the Motorola MA1 for a week now, so is it worth the investment?
The Motorola MA1 is a simple device outwardly, with a thin square body with Motorola logo on the top and an attached USB cable on one end, a single button on the side for pairing and an LED on the front.
The device is so simple, that all you get in the box is the dongle, a small quick start guide and a gel pad for securing the dongle in place in your car.
The USB cable is permanantly attached to the dongle with a USB Type A connector on the other end. To get going you simply plug it into the USB port in your car. The port for mine is on the centre console below the stereo, so I stuck the gel pad to the console out of the way and it sits there fairly unobtrusively, though the stickiness of the pad isn’t fantastic and it took a bit to get it to stay there – but, it’s on there now.
The all-in-one design with USB cable attached to the dongle differs from the AAWireless dongle I reviewed earlier this year. The cable itself on the MA1 is extremely sturdy and shouldn’t have issues, however I do like the AAWireless option which allows you to switch cable if the need ever arises.
My Kia is fitted with a mic and there’s a button on the steering wheel that activates the Google Assistant for any verbal queries, so I don’t have to pull my phone out – but if you don’t have this, you may need your phone in range to take commands.
I have only one note on the design of the MA1 and that relates to the glossy shine on the top of the dongle. It looks great, but with kids and the general detritus that builds up in my centre console, I can see it getting marked over time.
Setup is easy and requires no apps to get going. Simply follow the instructions in the provided booklet, which simply involves plugging your phone into the car to initiate Android Auto, then plug the dongle in and start pairing your phone to the dongle with Bluetooth.
You can manually put the dongle into pairing mode by holding the side button down for a few seconds, then selecting it from the available devices. The light on the front of the dongle will flash when in pairing mode, or stay solid when it’s connected.
You will likely have to run through the basic on-boarding for Android Auto on the phone and head unit as part of the setup, but it’s one-off at setup and a follow the bouncing ball style setup. Simple.
The difference between the MA1 and the AAWireless dongle I reviewed earlier this year is the need for an app to use the AAWireless dongle. There’s pros and cons on this front, the MA1 is easier to install and use, however the AAWireless dongle and it’s companion app receive regular firmware updates. As it’s a direct Bluetooth pairing there doesn’t appear to be anyway to update the MA1 dongle wirelessly. I haven’t run across any experience breaking issues that require a firmware update, but it’s something to note.
The actual user experience of the Motorola MA1 dongle is great. Once paired, simply hop in the car, start it and you’re done. By the time I was reversed out of the driveway and starting to head off the MA1 was connected and we were off and racing.
All your Android Auto compatible apps are available, Maps/Wayze, Audible, PocketCasts etc. and easily navigated through your stereo display screen.
There’s not been any lag or janky playback with the 5 GHz WiFi support able to give a solid connection that has plenty of bandwidth to transport data across the wireless signal.
There is a downside to wireless Android Auto in that you don’t have the phone plugged in and charging while you use it. There is a decent amount of battery drain, so if you’re going on a long car trip it may be worth actually plugging your phone into the USB port simply to ensure you don’t arrive at your destination with a flat battery in your phone.
The only ‘tricky’ part is pairing multiple devices – say, yours and a partners – then sharing the car with both devices. I found I had to go into Airplane mode on one phone, depending on who would be in control of the stereo. You’ll need full Airplane mode as the MA1 uses Wifi Direct and Bluetooth to run. Once you put one into Airplane mode, the other should connect with no issues and you can go about your business.
Should you buy it?
There’s only limited options for wireless Android Auto dongles in Australia that are sold locally. The AAWireless still requires importing from the US which can present some additional faffing about, while the MA1 is available through local Amazon and Telstra.
The MA1 is a very simple and effective answer to the wired Android Auto ‘problem’. There is the limited access to firmware updates and all-in-one design could be an issue in the unlikely event of a cable issue, but these are very limited problems.
All up though, the Motorola MA1 is easy to use, and a very cost effective way to get wireless Android Auto in your car without replacing the stereo.