Motorola MA1 review: Android Auto without the frills – without the wires

Motorola MA1: Specifications

Cut: 6.5 x 2.1 x 0.3 inches
Connection: USB-A
Wireless: Bluetooth, 5GHz Wi-Fi
SE: Android 11 or higher

The Motorola MA1 is a solution to a problem that has plagued Android Auto for some time: although it’s been available since 2018, wireless Android-Auto support is scarce. Certainly compared to the more widespread support for Wireless CarPlay.

So we end up with dongles like the Motorola MA1, which mediate between Android phones and your car’s infotainment system. This way you can use Android Auto wirelessly, without having to plug in your phone every time you leave the house.

As you’ll see in our full Motorola MA1 review, it does this job incredibly well. In fact, there’s hardly any noticeable difference between this and your phone’s wireless connection.

Motorola MA1 review: Price and availability

The Motorola MA1 is available from Amazon, Target, and Motorola itself for $89.95. However, as of this writing, all three retailers are currently out of stock, with the latter two offering email alerts to anyone willing to wait.

Motorola MA1 review: Design and features

If you thought the Motorola MA1 looked a lot like Google Chromecast, you would not be alone in this assessment. What you have is a small puck in the shape of a rounded square, with a 3-inch cable and a USB-A plug.

Motorola MA1 plugged in USB

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The cable is quite stiff, but it’s long and flexible enough that you can position the MA1 where it won’t bother you.

Motorola MA1 in car

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

The box also contains a small foam sticker, which can be used to attach the washer to any number of surfaces on your car. However, you may want to replace it with something like mounting tape or adhesive sealant, as it tends to come off the car.

Motorola MA1 adapter plugged in

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Finally, there’s a single button on the side, which can toggle Bluetooth pairing mode or reset the adapter to factory settings. You only have to worry about it the very first time you connect, although it’s worth mentioning that it can only be paired to one phone at a time.

The MA1 uses a mix of Bluetooth and 5GHz Wi-Fi to connect to your phone, the same protocols as any other built-in wireless Android Auto setup. This means your phone registers the connection the same way, so you’ll need a compatible device, which supports 5GHz Wi-Fi and is running Android 11 or newer. Not that you’ll struggle to find phones that have both.

Motorola MA1 review: Setup

Setting up the Motorola MA1 is a fairly simple process. The first step is to make sure your phone and Android Auto are all set up, which involves little more than plugging your phone into the car’s USB port.

Once everything is ready and Android Auto is running, you unplug and swap the USB cable for the Motorola A1. Then it’s a matter of pairing the adapter to your phone, as you would any other Bluetooth device, and waiting for the wireless connection to initialize.

Motorola MA1 adapter plugged in

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

Motorola admits initialization may take a few minutes the very first time, but future connections will go much faster.

Motorola MA1 review: Performance

Going in, the main question I had about the Motorola MA1 was “how will it compare to a wired connection?” I can say with absolute certainty that I didn’t even notice the difference. Wired or wireless, the relationship between my Nissan Leaf and Pixel 6 Pro felt exactly the same.

The Motorola MA1 delivered exactly what was promised, allowing drivers to retain all the important features of Android Auto without having to plug in. No more taking your phone out of your pocket or bag to get where you need to be. Just fire up the engine and let the adapter do its job.

Motorola MA1 synchronized with infotainment system

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

All the issues I encountered were issues I’d had with a wired connection – audible skips like a cheap portable CD player, the Nissan infotainment system crashing and restarting halfway through, or the makes my touchscreen about as responsive as a dog when it’s time for a bath.

Of course, there are some limitations to consider, both of which stem from the fact that wireless connections aren’t as fast or efficient as wired connections. The most obvious is that the MA1 took a bit longer to initialize than wired Android Auto.

It took Android Auto 18 seconds to launch when I physically plugged my phone in with a USB cable; connecting wirelessly with the MA1 took about 23 seconds.

Wireless Android Auto has a bit of a reputation for battery drain, which I saw with the Motorola MA1. In my testing, I found that simply leaving my Pixel 6 Pro plugged in and playing music with the screen off caused me to lose 7% battery within an hour.

Motorola MA1 is the size of a hand

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

It’s obviously not the worst battery drain in the world, but it’s worth considering on long trips. Especially when you remember that wireless connections don’t offer the same charging capabilities as wired. Of course, you can always plug your phone into a different power source, but that defeats the purpose of a wireless connection.

Motorola MA1 Review: Verdict

The Motorola MA1 does exactly what it promises to do, offering wireless Android Auto support in cars that don’t have that capability. And it does that job incredibly well, to the point where you’ll have a hard time telling it’s a wireless connection while in use.

On top of that, the dongle design provides a bit of flexibility as to where the adapter is in your car, without losing performance in the process. While the included adhesive pad doesn’t provide the greatest grip, that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

I still feel like the MA1 could be a bit cheaper, but given the performance I experienced, I wouldn’t regret paying $90. If you want a wireless Android Auto connection, you can’t go wrong here. Just be careful not to accidentally let your phone battery die.

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