If you’re a fan of Android Auto but hate having to plug in your phone, the Motorola MA1 could be worth a look — it’s a USB dongle that turns your wired Android Auto-equipped car into one that can connect to your phone wirelessly. The MA1, which will for $90 starting January 30th, pairs with your phone using Bluetooth and then transmits data over 5Ghz Wi-Fi. Given that only a few cars support wireless Android Auto from the factory (especially compared to the ones that support the wired version), this gadget could make for a relatively easy and inexpensive upgrade.
Of course, wireless Android Auto does have its drawbacks — since it’s not plugged in, your phone won’t be charging as you navigate with maps or listen to music using your car’s screen. While that may not be ideal for road trips, the convenience factor that comes with the MA1’s automatic pairing is hard to argue with for everyday errands and commutes. It’s designed to look a bit like a Chromecast, so it shouldn’t be too obtrusive, even if your USB ports aren’t hidden away in a center console. It also comes with a sticky mounting pad if you don’t want it rattling around.
It’s worth noting that the company behind this product isn’t actually the Motorola that made any permutations of the Razr flip phone or your old dial-up modem. Instead, the MA1 is from SGW Global, also known as Meizhou Guo Wei Electronics Co., Ltd, which describes itself as a “Motorola Strategic Brand Partner.” Basically, it’s a company that licenses the Motorola name. (Though the MA1 would be interesting regardless of the name slapped on it.) There aren’t a ton of options for turning your wired Android Auto head unit into a wireless one, so the MA1 could be a nifty gadget for Android users — if it’s good.
SGW Global says that you’ll be able to use the MA1 with phones running Android 11 or higher and that your phone will have to have an active data plan. And, obviously, your car or aftermarket head unit will still have to support wired Android Auto. Still, if you want to upgrade your car with wireless Android Auto, this could be a good way to do it. Though we won’t know for sure until we get to check it out and put it through its paces.
PS: If you, like me, thought, “Wait, Android 11 and up? I heard Google was getting rid of Android Auto with Android 12,” never fear. While it is replacing the version that runs on your phone screen with Google Assistant driving mode, the company says the experience will be the same if you’re using it on your car’s screen.
Correction, January 5th: The original version of this article stated the MA1 would be available today, when it will actually be available starting January 30th. We regret the error.