Review: We test a cheap way to add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to any car

The Carpuride W103 has been tested by Gareth ButterfieldThe Carpuride W103 has been tested by Gareth Butterfield
The Carpuride W103 has been tested by Gareth Butterfield

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

The Carpuride W103 is one of the best in-car displays on the market, says consumer technology writer Gareth Butterfield - and there’s currently a huge saving on Amazon.

If you buy a new car, you'll expect it to have a modern infotainment system. The vast majority now feature connectivity for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, because drivers usually prefer running a familiar operating system through their smartphones.

But what if your car doesn't have this capability? What if you've bought a used car, for example? Even cars just a few years old come with quite basic in-dash stereos, and some don't have displays at all.

You have the option to remove the car's infotainment system and replace it for a dedicated, aftermarket head unit that will connect to your smartphone, but this can prevent access to some of the car's built-in settings, and compatibility issues with other buttons and switches can occur.

It's the dilemma I've been facing after buying an eight-year-old Mitsubishi Outlander recently. Newer models have a slightly more high-tech infotainment system that does offer Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, but mine missed out.

Unboxing the Carpuride W103Unboxing the Carpuride W103
Unboxing the Carpuride W103

I'd explored the idea of spending around £500 on a quality head unit that was capable of mirroring my smartphone, but I'd have lost the ability to monitor my car's hybrid drive information, some automatic climate control settings, and even the tyre pressure monitoring.

There was, however, a better option. For just a few hundred pounds, I could mount a second display on my dashboard that would offer the connection to my smartphone and, crucially, allow me to access Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

These peripheral displays are easy to come by online, and can be bought for less than £100. But after a lot of research I found a company offering quality solutions for sensible prices.

Carpuride has been in the automotive electronics space for 12 years, and the company offered to send me one of its flagship devices, the W103 Pro to test in my Mitsubishi.

It's a flagship product because it's among the biggest displays offered by Carpuride. Costing £336.50 (although at the time of writing a special offer on Amazon that brings that down to £219.99) its wide display is 10.3 inches, and it packs in all the premium features you'd find across the range.

One of the features that attracted me, aside from its large HD IPS display, was its ability to run Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wirelessly. It can run media off a TF card or USB, but streaming content through Android Auto is what I signed up for, and it works very well.

Even at 10.3 inches, the display does not obscure the windscreenEven at 10.3 inches, the display does not obscure the windscreen
Even at 10.3 inches, the display does not obscure the windscreen

Another huge bonus with the premium Carpuride range, and the feature that attracted me in the first place, is its clever dual Bluetooth system. This means that, while you could connect the display to you car's audio system using a 3.5mm lead, it will also link up through Bluetooth. It connects to the car's head unit just as your phone would do.

This means you connect your phone to the Carpuride display, connect the display to the dash-mounted infotainment system, and the whole setup works seamlessly together.

There is another wireless option of tuning the car's FM radio to a specific frequency to pick up the Carpuride's FM transmission, but it's a bit crackly, and the sound quality is nowhere near as good as the Bluetooth connection.

Setting the Bluetooth link up was a pretty fiddly affair. Perhaps it was my car being fussy, but it took plenty of attempts to get the two devices talking to one another, and the instructions offered little help.

But once it was finally up and running, it has connected quickly and reliably every time I've started the car. Within about 20 seconds I've got an Android Auto screen on the Capuride device, and my YouTube Music tracks playing through the car's speaker system.

The suction mount has remained secure, quite remarkablyThe suction mount has remained secure, quite remarkably
The suction mount has remained secure, quite remarkably

I had some teething problems getting phone calls routed through the car stereo, which were eventually solved through an Android Auto update, but sat nav instructions always fed through the car speakers, right from day one.

For audiophiles, the sound quality is superb, with no noticeable latency, and there's a graphic equaliser in the Carpuride's simple menu system to refine your sound, but I did find this caused the audio to frazzle occasionally at higher volumes, so I left it alone and I haven't experienced any problems since.

The unit is powered from the car's 12v supply, either through a supplied cigarette lighter cable, or you can also run it through a quality USB cable.

There are a few mounting options too. I decided against screwing it to my dashboard and used the supplied suction mount instead. I initially thought I'd stick this to the window, keeping in mind how unreliable suction mounts can be. But I had a go at sticking it straight on to the dashboard surface and, quite remarkably, it stayed put. Even without using the mounting plate.

I actually can't believe this myself, because my dashboard had been polished by its previous owner and it's far from a smooth surface, but the suction mount has not detached, despite being subjected to changing weather conditions and a few thousands miles of journeys over Britain's unusually potholed roads.

So on the strength of the suction mount alone, I'm impressed with the Carpuride W103. But I also love its bright, clear, capacitive touch-screen display, and I love its quick responses and fast load-up time.

Its large size might not suit smaller cars, but there are smaller versions available. There's also a version with a built-in dashcam, which is a clever touch.

And it leaves me with little to pick fault with. The setup process was a bit fiddly, and the instructions were a bit poor, but some of this may have been down to my fussy car and its fairly primitive infotainment system.

All of the car's original functions and settings have remained intactAll of the car's original functions and settings have remained intact
All of the car's original functions and settings have remained intact | National World

And that's the best bit about a device like the Carpuride W103. I now have a second display on which I can run Google Maps or Waze, alongside my music playlists, podcasts, or audio books - but beneath it I can still access all the car's original functions, from its 360-degree camera system to the ambient lighting settings.

It's given me the best of both worlds. For a lot less than the price of a quality Android Auto head unit I've got a bigger second display with arguably better functionality, and I didn't have to go through the hassle of removing my old infotainment system and installing a new one.

If you're in the same boat as me, and your car missed out on an Android Auto or Apple CarPlay functionality, you should definitely try one of these systems out. It's honestly one of the best upgrades you can do to your car.

Related topics: