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Gareth Butterfield tests the Carluex Air wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay adaptor, which comes with a very clever feature

Carluex Air wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay adaptor

I’ve been testing cars for a living for over 14 years and it’s been amazing to see how far tech/>technology has come in that time. When I started out, it was rare to see a dash-mounted screen, for example, but now there are very few new cars on the market without them.

And the arrival of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay has transformed the way we use these infotainment systems, bypassing the manufacturer’s often rather clumsy operating system to use an interface we’re familiar with that’s fed directly from our smartphones.

This clever technology started out in a rather clunky way, with your phone having to be physically connected to the car through a USB lead to pipe its interface to the display. But then wireless solutions finally emerged and, in many new cars now, we can either keep the phones in our pockets, or plonk it down on a wireless charging pad, and the connection starts automatically and seamlessly as we drive away.

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But what I’ve come to realise in recent times is that many car manufacturers are a bit slow at adding this wireless technology. I won’t name and shame, but there are so many car makers still installing screens into brand-new cars that have to be connected up to a smartphone via a cable. My heart always sinks when I think about how much money has been spent developing a cutting-edge touchscreen, but leaving out such a crucial element.

And while this legacy of laziness will trickle down into the used market for generations, thankfully technology has found the answer. Wireless adaptors. These plug into your car’s infotainment system and stay plugged in, and connect to your phone wirelessly, piping your Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to the screen as if it was plugged in.

I’ve tested a few, and I use them every day in two of my cars, so I was keen to try one of the latest launches from Carluex, the Carluex Air.

The first thing that grabs you about the Air is its appearance. Rather than follow convention and just create a small plastic brick or puck, it echoes the shape of a sports car. It’s really neat, and something you won’t mind having on display. I like it.

It works brilliantly. You connect it up to your Android Auto or Apple CarPlay-enabled stereo system (the car has to have the capability first, obviously), link it to your phone through Bluetooth and that’s it. No more wires. Only, on the face of it, there is a bit of a catch. It costs £134. And that’s including a £24 saving. That makes it more expensive than most of the other wireless adaptors out there.

However, there’s more to this adaptor than meets the eye. Because it also has its own user interface built in.

This means, when you connect up to it, you have the option of loading up Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, in the usual way, but you can also come back to Carluex’s own interface. And it’s really rather clever.

It’s clearly Android-based, and that’s a good thing because it gives you access to a suite of apps. There’s all the usual stuff you’ll find on Android Auto, of course, but there’s also a selection of apps available that Android Auto won’t let you have. Think YouTube, Netflix, Prime Video, and so on.

Now, while it’s obviously not a good idea to be watching a Netflix documentary while you’re driving, your passengers might want to. And this gives you the option. There’s also an internet browser, and other apps become available, such as OBD scanners and the like.

To access these apps, you will need WiFi. And unless you have some sort of router in your car, which will be unlikely, you’ll need to use your phone’s hotspot. While this will be effective, it will use up your phone’s battery quite quickly. So you might need to charge it. And that’s a shame because, most of the time, that will mean plugging it in.

But the features the Carluex adds, besides the usual Apple CarPlay or Android Auto features, starts to make it feel well worth the money. My go-to adaptor up until now has always been the Carsifi adaptor, which I can get for £75 if I hunt around. Many other adaptors come in below the £100 mark, and it is possible – although not wholly advisable – to grab a cheap one for around the £50 mark.

But then you consider the Carluex Air, and the fact it doesn’t cost a great deal more than a premium adaptor, and then you weigh in all the extra features, and it starts to make a lot of sense.

It’s this versatility that I like about it. It looks cool, it’s easy to use, and it unlocks so much more in terms of features from your car’s screen.

In summary, it’s not without its flaws. But the benefits it brings for its premium price more than make up for them. If you’re serious about in-car entertainment in the 21st Century, this could be a really clever investment.

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