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Motorola MA1 review: No frills Android Auto — without the wires

The Motorola MA1 promises to take wires out of the Android Auto equation

Motorola MA1 plugged in to car
(Image: © Motorola)

Tom's Guide Verdict

If you want a hassle-free way to add wireless Android Auto to your car, the Motorola MA1 is the device for you. While its price may put some people off, its performance is almost indistinguishable from a wired connection.

Pros

  • +

    Small and discreet

  • +

    Easy to set up

  • +

    Activates automatically when the engine switches on

Cons

  • -

    High price tag

  • -

    Adhesive pad isn’t very good

  • -

    Wireless connection can’t charge your phone

Motorola MA1: Specs

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

The Motorola MA1 is a solution to a problem that has plagued Android Auto for a while: Despite being available since 2018, wireless Android Auto support is rare. Certainly compared to the more widespread support for wireless CarPlay

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

As you’ll see from our full Motorola MA1 review, it manages to pull off that task incredibly well. In fact there’s barely any noticeable difference between it and connecting your phone using a cable.

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 for anyone that’s willing to wait.

Motorola MA1 review: Design and features

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

Motorola MA1 plugged into USB

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The cable is fairly rigid, but is long and  flexible enough for you to position the MA1 to where it won’t bother you.

Motorola MA1 in car

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Also in the box is a small foam sticker, which can be used to attach the puck to any number of surfaces in your car. However you may want to substitute it for something like mounting tape or adhesive putty, since it does have a tendency to unstick from 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 need to concern yourself with this the very first time you connect, though it’s worth mentioning that it can only pair with 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 — one that supports 5GHz Wi-Fi and runs Android 11 or newer. Not that you’ll have any trouble finding phones that have both.

Motorola MA1 review: Setup

Setting up the Motorola MA1 is a fairly straightforward 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 to go, and Android Auto is running, you unplug and swap the USB cable for the Motorola MA1. Then it’s a case 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 that it can take a few minutes to initialize the very first time, but future connections will happen much faster.

Motorola MA1 review: Performance

Going in, the main question I had about the Motorola MA1 was “how is this going to compare to a hardwired 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, letting drivers retain all the important Android Auto features without having to plug in. No more pulling your phone out of your pocket or bag to get where you need to be. Simply switch on the engine and let the adapter do its thing.

Motorola MA1 synced with infotainment system

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

All the problems I experienced were problems I’d had with a wired connection — Audible skipping like a cheap portable CD player, the Nissan infotainment system crashing and rebooting mid-drive, or the fact my touchscreen is about as responsive as a dog when it’s time to take a bath.

Of course there are a couple of limitations to consider, both of which stem from the fact that  wireless connections are not as fast or efficient as wired ones. The most obvious one is that the MA1 took slightly 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; the wireless connection with the MA1 took around 23 seconds. 

Wireless Android Auto has something of a reputation for battery drain, which I could sort of see with the Motorola MA1. In my testing I found that the simple act of leaving my Pixel 6 Pro connected and playing music with the screen off caused me to lose 7% of battery in the space of an hour. 

Motorola MA1 is hand sized

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That obviously isn’t the worst battery drain in the world, but it’s worth bearing in mind on longer trips. Especially when you remember that wireless connections don’t offer the same recharging capabilities as hardwiring. Sure, you can always plug your phone into a different power source, but that kind of 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 struggle to tell that it’s a wireless connection during use.

On top of that, the dongle design offers a bit of flexibility on where the adapter sits in your car, without losing any performance in the process. While the included sticky pad doesn’t offer the greatest adhesion, that's inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

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

Tom Pritchard
Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online. 

  • osunick
    Many cars only provide .5A power when using Android Auto, which often means phones will slowly discharge even when connected. A huge advantage of going wireless is that you can use a high power PD adapter to charge quickly when using AA.
    Reply